Thus said the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;…
(with Jeremiah 18:3, 4): —
I. THERE IS A DIVINE IDEAL POSSIBLE FOR EVERY MAN. God has not made any man simply for destruction. There was one ideal possible for Egypt, another for Assyria, and another for Babylon, with their respective privileges and opportunities, and quite another for Israel, with its preeminent advantages. And what is true thus of nations is true also of individuals. He has one ideal for those who, like ourselves, are favoured to the full with Gospel blessings; and another for such as have not our original advantages. But there is a possible result that shall be worthy of His approval for each; and that each may reach that, has been His original and primary design in the creation of each.
II. THIS IDEAL IS TO BE ATTAINED BY A MAN ONLY THROUGH IMPLICIT FAITH IN GOD AND WILLING OBEDIENCE TO HIS COMMANDS. It was a profound saying of a great philosopher in regard to physical things that "we command nature by obeying her." He meant, for example, that by complying with the requisite conditions in electricity, we can command that agent to do our work. And similarly we may affirm that we command God by obeying Him (Isaiah 45:11). By obeying God we secure HIS approval and cooperation with us and in us by His Spirit for the attainment of that which He has designed to make us.
III. IF SUCH FAITH AND OBEDIENCE ARE REFUSED BY A MAN, THAT MAN'S HISTORY IS MARRED, AND IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE FOR HIM TO BECOME WHAT OTHERWISE HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN. That is seen by us every day in common life. The youth who trifles through these years which ought to have been devoted to education, may possibly, as the saying is, "take himself up" in after days, but he can never attain such a position as might easily have been his if he had been diligent all through the formative period of early life. And the same thing holds morally. Sin mars the Divine ideal for a man. It deprives him of the full advantage of the skill and help of God in the development of his character.
IV. IF THE MAN SHOULD REPENT AND RETURN TO THE LORD, HE MAY YET, THROUGH THE RICH FORBEARANCE OF GOD, RISE TO A MEASURE OF EXCELLENCE AND USEFULNESS WHICH, THOUGH SHORT OF THAT WHICH WAS ORIGINALLY POSSIBLE TO HIM AND INTENDED FOR HIM, WILL SECURE THE APPROVAL OF THE MOST HIGH. — There will always be in you and about you, indeed, the marks of your former lives; but God has you yet upon the wheel, and He will make you "another vessel as it pleases Him." Think here of such a case as that of Manasseh. But why need we go so far back for illustrations of this truth? I think of John Newton in the pulpit, doing a noble work for God and men in spite of his early sins and shameful habits. He was never such a man as he might have been had he been all through his days truly devoted to his God, but he was a good and useful man after all, saved by grace through faith in Christ and repentance unto life. I think of some, long enslaved by intemperance, and even yet feeling degraded at the thought of what but for it they might have been, but now emancipated from the thraldom of habit, by the power of the Holy Ghost, through faith in Jesus, and living mainly "for the good that they can do." And with such cases before me, I proclaim the willingness of God to save all who penitently turn to Him, and to make them vessels of mercy which He will "prepare for His glory."
V. IF THE MAN HARDEN HIMSELF INTO PERSISTENT REJECTION OF GOD, AND SHOW STUBBORN IMPENITENCE, THERE COMES A TIME WHEN IMPROVEMENT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE, AND THERE IS NOTHING FOR HIM BUT EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION FROM THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD AND THE GLORY OF HIS POWER. The clay that was plastic was made into another vessel; but the bottle that was burned into hardness and was found to be worthless, was broken into pieces and cast out. So when impenitence is perversely persisted in there comes a point at which the heart is so hardened thereby that repentance is neither thought of, nor prompted to, nor desired, and the man is abandoned to perdition. Do not dream of probation after death. Even if it were true that such a thing were to be given to the heathen, there would still be no hope for you. And so, while you may, before the day of grace ends and the door of opportunity is shut, return to the Lord by faith in Jesus and in obedience unto Him. I conclude with a word of exhortation especially addressed to the young. I have tried to show you that the morning of sin will prevent you from reaching the highest excellence of character in life, and I have pointed out also that, though you may afterward turn to God, the result, at last, will be short of that which otherwise you might have gained. How important it must be, therefore, to give yourselves to God, in Christ, with the first dawnings of your moral intelligence!
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;