Honour and Dishonour
Romans 9:21-23
Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor?…

Note —

I. THAT ALL MEN ARE MADE OF ONE COMMON NATURE. "We," as the old prophet has it, "are the clay, and Thou our Potter, and we are all the work of Thy hand." Notwithstanding the vast variety in colour, conformation, habit, etc., there is such a correspondence, both in the physical and spiritual structure of all the races as to corroborate the declaration that God "hath made of one blood all nations of men." Let us not be satisfied in admitting the truth of this doctrine, but —

1. Reverence the rights of all. Nothing can justify us in offering the slightest indignity to that right which belongs to man as man.

2. Sympathise with the woes of all. If we love not our brother "whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen?"

3. Diffuse that gospel which is the great want of all. Man, the world over, is a brother; out from the deeps of his heart there rises a cry for the help the gospel offers.

II. THAT OF MEN MADE OF THE SAME NATURE, PART IS BEING "FITTED FOR DESTRUCTION," AND PART FOR GLORY. The word destruction does not refer to existence, but to happiness. It is here put it antithesis to glory, i.e., all that is blissful in being. Now, it is here implied that there are certain men being framed for the destruction of all happiness, and others for all that is glorious. There are three things which show the truth of this.

1. The inevitable tendency of the two great principles that rule mankind — selfishness and love, or sin and holiness The one tends to the decrease of happiness, and the other to its increase; the one fits for destruction, and the other prepares for glory. A man under the influence of selfishness is one whoso nature is undergoing a rapid process of deterioration. There is a blight in his atmosphere that shall leave his spiritual territory barren. There is a disease in his system that shall, bring on death.

2. The actual experience of mankind. Take two men as types.

(1) One shall be Saul. He had, undoubtedly, a good mental, as well as a "goodly" corporeal constitution, and on him the "Spirit of the Lord" once moved. But the man was selfish; and this selfishness continued to fit him for "destruction," until, in the cave of Endor, he exclaims, "God is departed from me."(2) The other shall be David. He was but a shepherd bey, having nothing peculiarly great either in bodily or mental make, but his soul developed itself under the reign of Divine love, which led him to "serve his generation." And you see this youth, in almost every step of his life, getting into new power and rising into new glory. Now, all this is abundantly confirmed by Scripture, which represents all men as pursuing two paths, the one to destruction, and the other to glory — some sowing to the flesh, and reaping corruption, and some to the Spirit, and reaping everlasting life.

III. THAT WHILST GOD COULD HAVE. "FITTED" MEN FOR DESTRUCTION, HIS WORK IS TO "PREPARE" THEM FOR GLORY. We are not ignorant of the objection that God is represented as blinding men's eyes, making their hearts fat, and their ears heavy, and as hardening the heart of Pharaoh. True. But when such works are referred to God they must be referred to Him in an occasional, not in a causal — an incidental, not an intentional-a permissive, not a predestinating sense. Otherwise, indeed, moral evil is a Divine institution. Observe —

1. That the apostle does not affirm that God has ever fitted any being for destruction; and there are reasons to believe that He has never done so.

(1) There is analogy. Ask the astronomer or the microscopist if they have found one living thing formed for dishonour, or made for torture?

(2) There is the human constitution. Whether you look at it —

(a) Physically, with its varied members and organs, so exquisitely formed and put together, walking erectly, fronting the world with eyes on heaven, and lord of all that lives beneath the stars, or —

(b) Psychologically, with an intellect to reduce the universe to truth, and bear it along triumphantly in its path of thought, and a soul to mingle in the worship of seraphs, and delight in God," — can you affirm that man was made for dishonour?

(3) There is the conscience. Does the conscience ever testify to the ruined sinner that he was made for destruction? No. Were this the case there could be no remorse — no moral hell. "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked."

2. The apostle does affirm that God prepares men for glory; and there are abundant reasons to believe the fact.

(1) There is the spiritual influence of nature. This influence you may call beauty in the flowery fields, sublimity in the surging main, glory in the "terrible crystal," or divinity in all; but whatever you call it, there is nothing in it to fit "for destruction," but everything to prepare for glory. I often wonder how men can sin abroad, in the bright fields of holy nature.

(2) There is the special system of mediation, including the communications of God to humanity during the first four thousand years, the mission of Christ, the ministry of the gospel, and the agency of the Spirit. In view of all this, who can maintain, for a moment, the notion that God fits men for destruction?

IV. THAT THE HISTORY OF ALL MEN, WHATEVER THEIR DESTINY, ILLUSTRATES THE CHARACTER OF GOD. In relation to the destroyed, there is the manifestation of "long-suffering," "power," " wrath"; and in relation to the saved, there is the manifestation of the "riches of His glory." Conclusion: Learn —

1. That the most solemn attribute of thy nature is the power to misappropriate the blessings of God. Yonder are two plants side by side, rooted in the same soil, visited by the same showers, and shone on by the same sun; the one transmutes all into what will poison life, and the other into that which will sustain it. So the very elements that are preparing the men by thy side for glory — by the perverse use of thy moral freedom — may be fitting thee for destruction.

2. That the most momentous work in the world is the formation of character. It is either a soul-saving or a soul-destroying process. What wouldst thou think of a man who stood casting portions of his property into the bosom of the rolling river? But if thou art forming an ungodly character, thou art doing worse folly than this, thou art wasting thy spiritual self. That vessel which the architect, either from recklessness or ignorance, is constructing on a principle which necessarily unfits her to stand the swelling surges and the hostile gale, you would say, is "fitted for destruction," so, in very truth, is thy character if built on the principle of selfishness.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

WEB: Or hasn't the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel for honor, and another for dishonor?

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy
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