by James Smith, 1860
The doctrine of God's divine sovereignty is generally offensive to the carnal mind — because it strikes a death-blow at the root of man's pride, and lays the sinner low in the dust before God. Man does not like to be represented as lying absolutely helpless at the foot of divine mercy, entirely at the Lord's disposal. But God must be a sovereign, and if ever we are saved, it must be in the exercise of his sovereignty.
God commands Jeremiah to go down to the potter's house, to be taught a lesson there:
"So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.'" Jeremiah 18:1-6
These words are as applicable to us, as to them. Observe,
Our Position.We are in God's hand! He has full possession of us, and absolute power and authority over us. We cannot fly out of his hand, or escape from under his eye! We are in God's hand — as clay in the hand of the potter. We are powerless in his hand. We are wholly at his disposal — to be molded and changed, as to form, appearance, and value — just as he desires. He does with his creatures, according to his will — both in Heaven, and on earth. His will is our law; his decree is our destiny. This may be seen in nature, in providence, and in grace.
He arranged our birth, our position in society, and our calling by his grace.
Whatever he wills — he works.
Whatever he has purposed — he brings to pass.
The potter does not more really preside over the clay — than the Lord presides over all the affairs of the world.
We are in God's hand, as marred vessels. We have no beauty, no apparent value — unfit for sale, and unfit for use. If we are to be of use, if we are to glorify his great name — we must be re-made. Therefore every Christian is said to be, "his workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works," and that according to his foreordination. Whatever we are spiritually — we are by his grace. Notice then,
God's Sovereignty.He is our owner. The potter cannot claim the clay, which he has dug out of his own land — as absolutely as the Lord can claim us!
We are his — for he CREATED us. We were not — until he gave us a being; we never would have been — had he not willed it.
We are his — for he has PRESERVED us. By the constant exercise of his sustaining energy — we have been kept in existence according to his sovereign will.
As believers, we are his by REDEMPTION. Every legal impediment has been removed out of the way of his claiming us, and justly re-molding us, and raising us to the highest happiness and glory.
We are God's material for making vessels of mercy, which are to adorn his heavenly temple, and show forth his praise.
He is our absolute owner. No one can justly question his right, or interfere with his disposal of us. He may do as he will, with his own.
But as infinitely wise, whatever he does will reflect his wisdom.
As impartially just, whatever he does will be in accordance with justice — no part of the creation shall sustain any wrong, by anything he sees fit to do.
As plenteous in mercy, his mercy will appear in every exercise of his sovereignty.
We are his, absolutely his — but in dealing with us, in disposing of us — he will act wisely, justly, and in accordance with his mercy. Hence,
The Inquiry?"Can I not do with you as this potter does — says the Lord." Can I not break up the old marred form, reduce it to a shapeless mass, and re-form you for my own use and glory? Yes, he can — and he does! Therefore . . .
But God puts the question to us . . .
to convince us that we are absolutely at his disposal;
to impress us with a sense of our dependence on him;
to instruct and teach us that we are at his sovereign mercy;
to silence all the carnal reasonings and objections of the flesh;
and to humble our proud hearts!
O what a mercy it is, that the vilest can be changed! To change the nature and character of the sinner — is God's work alone! We are in one sense, that is in reference to all that is spiritually good — like passive clay in God's hand; he must work in us to will, and to do. He must form us for himself — if we ever actively show forth his praise.
Our God is our divine potter — and who shall effectually resist the working of his mighty power? Who can justly complain, if all that God does as a Sovereign in our world, is done in the exercise of his mercy, and is for our welfare?
Who can find fault without folly — in seeing God, the only wise, the all-comprehending, just, and holy God — taking marred vessels, and making them into vessels of honor — glorifying himself in doing so!
O my soul, lay low before the Lord, and let his own question deeply impress you, "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it: Why did you make me like this?"
O Lord, teach and sanctify me by your Spirit, that I may not only admit the doctrine of your sovereignty; but admire its working, and adore its holiness, justice, and grace!