Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor?…
I. THE VESSELS.
1. They are made of the same lump as the vessels of wrath. Thou who hast hope of heaven look back to the miry clay whence thou wast drawn! There was nothing in thee by nature better than that which is found in any other man. Had He left thee to thyself, thou hadst been as base and vile as others. If there be a difference in thee, the difference is of grace and not of nature.
2. They are as much as any other portion of the clay, entirely in the potter's hand. Had the potter willed to leave that mass of clay alone, we should have been vessels of wrath most surely. Hell's thistles grow self-sown, but God's wheat needs a husbandman. Vessels of mercy fit themselves for destruction, but grace alone can prepare a soul for glory. If the Lord had permitted the whole human race to perish He would have been infinitely just. If He had chosen to spare a few, that would have been an act of surprising mercy. Inasmuch, however, as He hath taken so much of the clayey mass, as to make vessels of mercy innumerable as the stars of heaven, unto His name be all the glory.
3. God's chosen ones: are —
(1) "Vessels." A vessel is not a fountain, not a creator of the water, but a container. So the redeemed are not fountains by nature, out of whom there springeth up anything that is good. At one time they are full of themselves, but grace empties them, and then as empty vessels they are set in the way of God's goodness, God fills them to the brim with His loving-kindness, and so are they proved to be the vessels of His mercy. Remember all that God asks of thee in order to thy salvation is, not to do anything, but to holdout thine empty hand and take all thou wantest. The elect of God are vessels only. They may afterwards give out to others, but they can only give out what God has put in them. They may run over with gratitude, but it is only because God has filled them with grace; they may stream forth with holiness, but it is only because the Lord keeps the supply overflowing.
(2) "Vessels of mercy." In order that they may be such it is necessary that they should be sinful and miserable. Pity may be given to the miserable, but mercy must be bestowed upon the sinful. For a judge to talk of mercy to the innocent would be to insult them; and for the philanthropist to offer pity to the happy would be but to mock them. The redeemed are not vessels of merit but vessels of mercy.
II. THE POTTER AT HIS WORK. When a potter is about to make a vessel he does not take up the clay and put it on the wheel and then leave it to chance. No —
1. He has his plan. So it is with our Divine Potter. He takes the poor sinner; He puts him on the wheel, and as that wheel revolves the potter looks and sees in that clay a future something which does not appear to the vessel. "It does not yet appear what we shall be"; but the Potter knows, "He will present us without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing."
2. He makes the outlines in the clay. You may have seen the man at work. Perhaps at the very first moment you may form a rough guess of what the whole thing is to be, though the elaboration you cannot yet discover. Certain it is, that the moment a man begins to be separated for heaven by the grace of God in his soul, you may see the outlines of what he is to be. There is —
(1) Faith in Christ.
(2) Love to Christ.
(3) A hope that maketh not ashamed, and a joy which makes glad his countenance.It is but the bare outline, for the glory which excelleth is not there. The vase is only in its embryo, but yet sufficiently developed to give a prophecy of its finished form.
3. The gradual completion of the article. There will not always be in you the bare outline, but as time goes on there will be some of the beautiful lines and filling-up. The Christian will be getting more and more like his Master. And if we can see here on earth vessels getting ready for perfection, and if those vessels have so much beauty in them, what must they be when at last they shall be finished. If this world be fair, how much fairer shall the new world be.
III. THE POTTER'S MARK UPON HIS VESSELS. In all manufactories there is always some trade-mark which is not to be imitated, and without which no vessel is the genuine production of the professed maker. You may know to-day whether you are a vessel of mercy by the Master's mark upon you.
1. That mark is — calling. Has Divine grace called you out of darkness into marvellous light? for if so, it is not a matter of question as to whether you are ordained to eternal life.
2. That is a mark which no man can put upon you. The earnest minister may cry aloud and spare not, but it is in vain calling to deaf ears. The Lord alone can so speak, that the deaf, nay, the dead, must hear. Hast thou ever, then, felt a calling which is not of man, neither by man? Has the voice of mercy so said, "Come to Jesus," that thy heart has said "Thy face, Lord, will I seek"? Has He said to thee, "Mary," and hast thou said. "Raboni"? Has He cried to thee, "Zaccheus make haste and come down," and hast thou come down and received Him in thine house. Hast thou had that call, for if so, thou hast the mark of the Potter upon thee.
3. As this is a mark which no man can put upon you, so it is one which no man can take away from you.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?