Romans 9:21
Some aspects of the Deity may be less pleasing to contemplate than others. The pride of man rejoices not at first in the thought of the majesty which overawes his littleness and compels him to submission. Yet as a hard flint forcibly struck emits a bright spark, and as a rough husk often covers a sweet kernel, so these stern views of the Almighty may, if reverently faced and meditated upon, yield salutary, ennobling, and even comforting reflections.

I. THE POTTER CLAIMS ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO DEAL WITH THE CLAY AS HE THINKS FIT. His arbitrary power does not signify the absence of proper reasons for his selection. As in the calling of Israel to peculiar service and responsibility and honour, so everywhere can an election be discerned. We do not start in the race of life with exactly similar equipment, though we live in tabernacles of clay. If the physical and spiritual powers are the same in essence, like the particles of "the same lump," yet the faculties of some have been well trained from the beginning, and their natures have developed under favourable conditions. Here is a lesson of resignation. He is happiest who accepts the will of God as revealed in his lot, assured that God's decision has ample justification. Even the Stoic philosophy could declare that if man knew the plans of the Superintendent of the universe, and saw them in their completeness, he would at once acquiesce in the determinations of the Arbiter of his destiny. This is the truth which mingles with the error of Mohammedan fatalism. We have to do all that lies within our power, and leave the result with him who is wise and merciful. For the Potter is our Father in heaven. How much of the vexation and worry of life is due to a conceit of our capacity, and perhaps to a jealousy of the position and attainments of our neighbours! Be content to fill a lowly place. And the time is at hand when "the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar."

II. THE POTTER HAS NO DESIRE FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF HIS WORKMANSHIP. He cares not to waste his clay, nor to employ it in a manner to secure its speedy extinction. It is a pain to God to see his gifts abused, his image degraded, his work marred. He is said in ver. 22 to "endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath." A lesson of hopefulness is here. The Most High will not break his vessels in pieces as long as they are fit for any use, for any post, though humble and insignificant. "Potter and clay endure," howe'er the wheel of life may turn and fashion the material into altered shapes. If the light of God shines in a vacuum, no brightness is observable. An empty heaven were a dreary home for a God of love, a silent temple for him who glories in the praises of his people and his works.

III. THE POTTER PREFERS TO CONSTRUCT THE CHOICEST VESSELS. The noblest ware pays him best, and he lovingly exerts his skill on specimens of highest art. Deny not to God the delight which every artist feels in the finest productions of his genius! The most polished mirrors best reflect his glory. A lesson of aspiration therefore. "Covet earnestly the best gifts." God has made his clay instinct with will and energy; he takes pleasure in the improvement of the vessels, that they may be brought into his sanctuary. It will mightily assist our struggles to be sure that the Captain longs "to bring many sons unto glory." - S.R.A.







Hath not the potter power over the clay?
I. THE MATERIAL OF WHICH HUMANITY IS COMPOSED. Represented by clay.

1. Mean.

2. Powerless.

3. Plastic.

II. THE SOVEREIGN RIGHT OF GOD TO MOULD IT TO HIS WILL. A vessel to —

1. Honour.

2. Dishonour.

III. THE CONSISTENCY OF THIS DOCTRINE WITH HUMAN FREE AGENCY.

1. God determines our physical and temporal conditions.

2. Not our eternal doom.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

"Hath he not power?" Yes, he has, is the answer the apostle expects, and he is right, and God the Almighty Potter has unchallengeable power over His clay. Let it be noticed —

I. THAT PAUL DOES NOT REFER TO PHYSICAL FORCE, i.e., that God, in virtue of His almightiness, is able out of the same lump to make one vessel to honour and another to dishonour. The word is not, δύναμας ability to do, but ἐξουσία — authority, prerogative right. God is not under any obligation to confer equal honour or dishonour upon all. He will be doing no wrong, although He make a difference.

II. WE ARE NOT TO LOOK UPON GOD'S PREROGATIVE AS UNCONDITIONAL.

1. True, the prerogative of the literal potter is absolute. He may do with his clay what he pleases, although it may be ridiculous, and ultimately ruinous to him. He may add inappropriate ingredients and spoil his clay: stupidly attempt to make fine vessels out of coarse clay; he may misshape his vessels, mar them, or when the whole batch is fashioned take an iron rod and dash them into shivers. If the clay, wheel, time, rod, be his own, he may set as absurdly as he pleases.

2. But then this absolute right will not shield him from the criticism of his fellows. They may not say "No, this won't be permitted; you are ill-using your clay." But they will be at perfect liberty to say what Jonathan Edwards said of the devil, "that he is one of the greatest fools and blockheads in the world."

3. Again, men are not like clay in all respects, e.g., they are possessed of rights. Man has a right to be treated with justice; to be furnished with ability to do his duty, if he is to be held responsible for not doing it to have the gate of heaven opened to him if he is to be blamed for not entering in. Man must have some power of formative self-control "unto honour," if he is to be blamed for being fashioned into a vessel "unto dishonour."

4. All this being the case, God's power over the human clay is not utterly unconditional. His right to do with it as He pleases is, by His own benevolent arrangement, modified by rights which He has conferred on His creatures. He has not reserved the right to do wrong. It cannot be the case, then, that God has reserved the right to deal tyrannically with His poor human creatures. If they are held responsible to Him for the shape their character assumes, then something is due to them as the basis of their accountability.

III. THE STATEMENT CANNOT BE QUOTED IN FAVOUR OF UNCONDITIONAL REPROBATION. There are, indeed, beings who deserve universal reprobation, and, therefore, Divine; and there is future reprobation; but is it right to so magnify the Divine sovereignty as to exclude from the circle of Divinity, justice, righteousness, goodness, wisdom, mercy, and love? Such inversion of theology would be akin in monstrosity to the wild political aphorism that monarchs reign by Divine right and can do no wrong.

IV. WHAT, THEN, WAS THE APOSTLE'S AIM IN PROPOUNDING HIS QUERY? Why should he be solicitous to show that God has a right to turn some of the race into a condition of dishonour, and others into a state of glory? The reason is that in chaps, 9-11, he is discussing the relation of his countrymen to the gospel. Alas! the great mass were unbelieving. What then? Would they, notwithstanding, be all turned on the Divine wheel into vessels of honour? The Jews contended that they would. It was the Gentiles only who were to be fashioned into vessels unto dishonour. "No," says the apostle, "you are wrong, my countrymen. It is with intensest sorrow that I say it. It is the penitent and believing only who shall be saved. And the Almighty Potter, who has us all on His wheel, has right, out of the same lump of Jews and Gentiles, to turn one man, even though he be a Gentile, provided he be penitent and believing, into a vessel of glory, and vice versa." The apostle had evidently the representation of Jeremiah 28, in his eye. If a vessel becomes marred in the hands of the potter, then, instead of proceeding with it, he crushes the clay together and fashions it into another kind of vessel. God desired to fashion the Jews into a glorious vessel, when, lo! it became marred in His hand, and He had to make it into another — unto dishonour. The vessel was marred, not because of any imperfection in the Potter's manipulation, for He is not liable to mistakes. Some bad and coarse ingredient had been by some enemy flung in, so that only a coarser vessel than what was desired could be made of it. Application: God is not willing that any should perish, i.e., He does not wish to have any vessels fashioned unto dishonour. He would have all to be beautiful and honourably serviceable, i.e., all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Jesus, speaking to the impenitent, says, "I would, but ye would not," and just because men will not they spoil the clay that is in the Almighty Potter's hand.

(J. Morison, D.D.)

I. THE QUESTION PROPOSED.

1. A seemingly needless one.

2. Proposed as an argument for conviction.

II. THE ANSWER IMPLIED. That God is —

1. The Creator of all things.

2. The arbitrator of the destiny of everything.

3. That He has, as such, a right to create and plan out as He thinks fit.Application:

1. Do not question God's authority.

2. Submit to all His decrees with humility.

(J. H. Tasson.)

Against the hard absolutism of the parable of the potter and the clay the righteous instincts of the heart have often protested. Responsibility without freedom strikes us as despotic and unjust. If we are whirled about on the potter's wheel of an inflexible fate, it seems intolerable that we should be denounced for taking the shape it has given us. And what maddens us the more is that not being free, we should yet be called into account and held responsible. No effort of ours, it seems, can alter our destiny; yet the stain of demerit clings to us if we fail to shape it. It is like charging the rivers with guilt for their inability to run up a hill when God's decree of gravitation forbids it. All this we find, or think we find, in the image of the potter and the clay. And no doubt, read in its connection with the rest of the passage, it seems a vindication of the right of God to do what He likes — of His right to be arbitrary, to make selections on principles of favouritism. An image or argument, however, that lands us in such a conclusion — that issues in a disproof of the righteousness of God, carries in it its own condemnation. As the impersonation of eternal justice, He must choose and do what is fair — what commends itself to our pure moral instincts. He must reverence the laws He has stamped on our nature. He must live out from the perceptions of the right He has given us to live by. The image of the potter and the clay, of the vessels made to honour and the vessels made to dishonour, are emblematic of certain inequalities that prevail among men. You have these two inequalities; first, as to our sphere in life; secondly, as to our moral constitution. Now, let us look at this question a little more closely. First, one man's lot is favourable to the cultivation of the Christian temper, while another's is not. That, I suppose, is inevitable. As there are some races who seem to exist only to be the serfs of the world, delvers in the field, toilers in the mine, so there are individuals elected by Divine decree, fashioned of dull and lethargic temper, to whom all life in the higher human interests has been denied. They cannot rise to the far empyrean, fanned by the wing of the albatross and the eagle; but must be content to skim with heavy flight near the earth's surface. Well, if the Potter has made them so, let them so accept the destiny and the doom assigned. Let them do that in the strong conviction that the great Judge will take into account the conditions of life in which He placed them, and ask only if their achievements were equal to their opportunities. To them, little having been committed, from them little shall be required. Your sphere, your work in life, then, is the element given you in which to work out whatever greatness of character is possible within it. It defines your opportunities. These may be few, narrow, unpoetic. But there they are: and faithfulness within them will secure for you the same cordial greeting given by God to him who, having ten times your chances, gives back to the great Householder no more in proportion than you. Secondly, there are diversities of nature among men. You have one man with a sweet nature in him, perfectly and rightly disposed towards goodness and God. You have another, with whom life is a ceaseless struggle, who cannot put the victor's foot on his frailties, and who at the end will die, having redeemed little of the wilderness within from its waste and wildness to the peaceful fruitfulness of the garden of God. It strikes you as unfair to ask these men to live in equal nearness to God. It is like asking the vessel made of common earth to have the glitter and beauty of Etruscan ware. Now, what are we to say to those hapless souls to whom fate has denied the moral materials of which the saintly character is formed — whom the Potter has made of common clay? That they will be condemned for not being the richest porcelain? for not attaining the moral beauty which the rigorous necessity of destiny and providence forbid? Surely not? A fine nature is a communicated blessing. It is not the acquisition of one's own will — not the fruit of one's own endeavour. No merit is ascribed to a man who is what he is because of something given him, not acquired by him. If much has been given in a man's moral endowments, much will be required of him; but to whom little has been given, of him little shall be asked. The ideal man of angel temper is different from the ideal man of a dull and sluggish soul. Both may be perfect after their kind. The injustice will not come in till God expects from both vessels the same finish and beauty. The clay vessel may be perfect as a bit of delf; it has its own perfection: the vessel made to be a bit of alabaster or Etruscan ware cannot have more. In conclusion, then, our lot and our nature — whatever these are, tractable or intractable — are given us as the element and the materials out of which we are to evolve a certain ideal character. The lot and the nature are our fate — for them we are not responsible. The character is the product of our own freewill — for it we shall answer.

(James Forfar.)

To make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour
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.)

Who can say of himself, or of his fellow, whether his is a life of honour or of dishonour? I have seen side by side, amid the heirlooms of a great historic English house, a goblet of massive gold, rich with costly gems, and beside it a common earthern vessel, with broken handle and with battered edge. Which of these is a vessel made unto honour, and which to dishonour? The one has stood amid the blaze of light and the flash of jewels, filled with rare wine, at the banquet table of a king, where mistresses laughed, and where libertines blasphemed; and the other has borne water to the parched lips of dying soldiers, amid the smoke and dust of battle. Which, now, is the vessel made to honour, and which to dishonour?

(T. T. Shore, M.A.)

What if God, willing to show His wrath... endured... vessels of wrath... and
The sentence is elliptical. Supposing God to have done so, and for certain ends — what then? The apostle does not fill up the sentence himself, but leaves it to be filled up by his readers agreeably to the principles he had been laying down. Would there be unrighteousness with God?

I. THE PARTIES SPOKEN OF.

1. "The vessels of wrath," i.e., the "vessels to dishonour" of ver. 21.(1) The wrath of God is invariably pointed against sin (chap. Romans 1:18; Ephesians 2:1-3). It is judicial, not personal; righteousness demanding the punishment of iniquity — "angry with the wicked," and insisting on the execution of the law. Sovereign wrath is a contradiction. Sovereign mercy is not. It expresses the unalienable right of the Supreme Ruler to show favour freely to the undeserving. The very word "mercy" implies "desert of evil" in its objects. But from the idea of the right of God to inflict suffering on the undeserving, we shrink with horror, for it would ascribe to God the right to do wrong. All punitive infliction presupposes desert. The bestowment of good does not. The latter, then, belongs to sovereignty; the former, to equity.(2) The sins of men are freely committed. They are done with the choice of their wills. Otherwise there could be no such thing as sin. If a man were used as a mere machine, he could not be a sinner. Every sinner is sensible that neither, on the one hand, is he constrained to evil, nor, on the other, restrained from good. To say that man cannot will what is good is to employ terms most inconsiderate and misleading. What hinders him from willing? Only the absence of right dispositions. But the indisposition is just the want of will; and, there being no other inability in man than this, to say he cannot will resolves itself ultimately into the will not to will; inasmuch as he is kept from willing good by nothing but his aversion to good.(3) These are truths sufficiently plain, and they serve to show the meaning of the expression "fitted to destruction."(a) More is meant than mere destination or appointment. "Fitted" includes particularly the idea of congruity between the character and the destruction. The question, then, comes to be — how are they thus "fitted" and by whom? In finding an answer to this question, observe the marked difference between the expressions on both sides of the alternative. God fits the "vessels of mercy," but the vessels of wrath are only "fitted for destruction" i.e., self-fitted, fitted by their impenitent and obdurate sinfulness. The blessed God cannot be regarded as directly "fitting men for destruction" by any influence from Him (James 1:13-16; Ezekiel 15:6-8).(b) And, as God cannot make men wicked, neither should He be considered as appointing men to sin — unless it be in the simple sense of leaving them, in punitive abandonment, to the hardening influence of its wilful perpetration (Jude 1:4).

2. The vessels of mercy."(1) The very idea of mercy excludes all desert on their part, and all obligation on the part of God. "Vessels of mercy" implies that whatever there may be of good in them, that good is something which they do not deserve, and which God is, in no respect, bound to bestow.(2) This being the case, their previous "preparation to glory" is an act of pure sovereignty. "Making them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Ephesians 2:1-10).

II. THE CONDUCT OF GOD TOWARDS THEM.

1. It is the same to both. The expression "Enduring them with much long-suffering" is used, it is true, only in reference to the former; but it is necessary, to complete the sense, that it be, as it were, carried forward, and considered as if repeated, in regard to the latter.

2. The long-suffering of God is one of the most wonderful facts in the history of our apostate race. It was manifested in His dealings with the antediluvian world, and in the whole course of His procedure toward the Jewish people. It has been manifested all along, and continues to be, in the experience of the race at large, and in the life of every individual. Who is there, of all the children of men, that is not the subject of it?

3. The idea implies the existence of a tendency in a contrary direction. The holiness of God is infinitely opposed to all sin, and while His holiness abhors it, His justice calls for its punishment. In proportion, then, to the strength of these principles of the Divine character, is the difficulty of forbearance with the workers of iniquity.

4. By this long-suffering, the great majority of men, alas! are only encouraged in evil (Ecclesiastes 8:11). They thus criminally, because wilfully, abuse the Divine goodness; and thus "fit themselves for destruction" (Romans 2:4, 5). But others dealt with in the same "long-suffering," alter very protracted and obstinate resistance of the means of grace, relent, believe, and are saved. Toward both there has been shown "much long-suffering." To many a believer — especially to such as have been converted later in life than others — might I make an appeal for the truth of this.

III. THE DESIGN OR OBJECT OF THIS CONDUCT here supposed by the apostle. Suppose God does as the potter does: "what if" this were the case? It is evident that the question is intended to involve another question: Would there be any ground of complaint? Who, with any just cause, could say a single word against the procedure? Remember that men are not here spoken of as creatures, but as sinners — guilty subjects of God's moral government, breakers of His law-all alike obnoxious to the visitation of His punitive justice. The general principle, then, is this — that God, the Supreme Ruler, so orders His rectoral procedure towards sinful men, as that He may most effectually secure the glory of His own character and government. Let us look at both sides of the alternative.

1. In God's longsuffering towards those who ultimately perish, what is His course? He lengthens out their period of trial. He applies every mode of treatment, in itself, as a moral means, fitted to bring them to repentance. In doing this, He provides for a satisfactory display of righteousness in their final condemnation; so that none can say that they perished unwarned, untried, uninvited. In the forbearance of God, they have found opportunity for repentance, and they have guiltily misimproved it; converting it into an opportunity of further and further showing the evil principles and dispositions by which they are actuated, and which are the grounds of their sentence of death in the judgment. As an exemplification of our meaning, take the case of the flood (cf. 1 Peter 3:19, 20; 2 Peter 3:9). And as it was with the antediluvian sinners, so was it with the Jews. God's judgments on them were not only deserved, but by His whole procedure toward them shown to be deserved ere they were inflicted. Their "mouths were stopped." And thus it will be at last. God the Judge has determined that He will not only be just in His sentences of condemnation, but show Himself just. Who will venture to find fault with this?

2. Of the other side of the alternative the import is sufficiently obvious. The "riches of His glory" evidently signifies here "His glorious riches" — and that means, as evidently, the riches of His mercy. The glorious riches of God's mercy are made known by salvation in general having been provided; by the means of its provision; and by every individual instance of salvation bestowed. But "the riches of His mercy" are more signally displayed in some cases of salvation than in others. In particular cases, by His "forbearance and long-suffering," He prepares wonderful exemplifications of the exuberant abundance and untrammelled freeness of this grace. Let this apostle himself tell us of his own ease, as an instance in point (1 Timothy 1:12-16).Conclusion:

1. There is a tendency at present to dwell too exclusively on the Divine love, and to make too little of the other attributes of the Divine character. Because the atonement is universal, and the gift of Christ is the highest expression of love, therefore Divine love must be love without distinctions. As if, because the atonement has been made for all, in order to there being a consistent ground on which all might be invited to pardon, therefore there can be and must be no distinctions in the saving application of the atonement. God says, "A new heart also will I give you," etc. Does He do this alike to all?

2. While it is right for us to look at both sides of the alternative, it is especially delightful for us to contemplate Him "preparing for glory the vessels of mercy." His time of preparing them is very various. He can fit them in a moment: while sometimes the preparation extends through many a year. He spares them sometimes as instruments for His use in preparing other "vessels of mercy" for the same glory with themselves. And then, when He takes them to the inheritance of the glory for which He has prepared them, and which He has prepared for them — how delightful our emotions in looking after them. Be has taken these vessels where He may put them to uses more glorifying to Him, and more honourable to themselves, than any use He could make of them in their imperfect state below!

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

I. VESSELS OF WRATH.

1. Whom does this phrase describe? Not persons pre-ordained to wrath, but deserving of wrath.

2. How are they fitted for destrucion? Not by Divine operation, but by their own wilful impertinence.

3. How does God use them? For the display of His justice and power.

4. How is the righteousness of the Divine procedure vindicated?

(1)By His patient forbearance.

(2)By the opportunity afforded for repentance.

(3)By the offers of His grace.

II. VESSELS OF MERCY.

1. Their determination.

(1)Not by unconditional election.

(2)But by the reception of mercy and belief of the truth.

2. Their preparation —

(1)In life.

(2)By grace.

(3)Through the sanctification of the Spirit.

3. Their use. To display the riches of God's glory — His wisdom, love and power in their salvation.

4. Their destiny — glory.

(1)In the perfection of their nature and happiness.

(2)In the presence of God.

(3)For ever.

5. The foundation of all their happiness. The sovereign grace of God in Christ.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Biblical Museum.
A certain minister, having changed his views on certain points of Divine Truth, was waited upon by an old acquaintance, who wished to reclaim him to his former creed. Finding he could not succeed in his object, he became warm, and told his friend that God had "given him up to strong delusion," and that he was "a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction." "I think, brother," was the response, "you have mistaken the sense of the passage you last referred to. Vessels are denominated according to their contents. A chemist, in conducting a stranger through his laboratory would say, 'This is a vessel of turpentine, that of vitriol,' etc., always giving to the vessel the name of the article it contains. Now when I see a man full of the holy and lovely spirit of Christ, devoted to His service and imitating His example, I say that man is a vessel of mercy, whom God hath aforetime prepared unto glory; but when I see a man full of everything but the spirit of the Bible — opposed to God's moral government, seeking his own things rather than the things of Christ, and filled with malice, wrath, and all uncharitableness, I am compelled to consider him 'a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction.,"

(Biblical Museum.)

The doctrine of reprobation is a malicious libel on mercy. It is an attempt of Satan to graft his own character upon the Lord; and to make Him whose name is "Love" like him whose nature is hatred. Consider —

I. THE CHARACTERS HERE DESCRIBED.

1. Wrath means far more than anger — and it becomes a stronger word as the capacity for wrath increases. "The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion."(1) Now measuring upwards in this way, what must God's wrath be, whose every attribute is illimitable? and the very infinitude of His mercy proves what must be the extent of His wrath.(2) And are there any creatures exposed to this? Yes, it must be so where sin is. It is far more anomalous to suppose moral guilt existing and God not angry, than it is to imagine rebels and a king unmoved, or children fiends in human shape and the father indifferent. The wrath of God must come, in the very nature of things, upon the children of disobedience. He that committeth sin must be a vessel of wrath by nature, and if that nature be not changed, a double portion of wrath abideth on him.

2. Mark the term which expresses the reception of this anger — "vessels"; not leaves, which hold the storm-drop for an instant and then allow it to trickle off, but vessels retaining it. You may say, "Such a load as God's wrath must crush me"; and in one sense it will; but in another it will not; you will have powers of endurance as great as the saint's power of enjoyment. Hard and impenitent hearts are "treasuring up wrath against the day of the wrath." Wrath shall come upon them, as Paul says, "to the uttermost."

3. And moreover the sinner is a vessel "fitted for destruction." What by? Sin. He who wills not the death of the sinner is not likely to fit him for dying. We prepare ourselves for destruction; "Oh, Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself."

II. GOD'S CONDUCT TOWARDS THEM. He endures them with much long-suffering. How much let your unnumbered sins declare. Why! any forbearance in your case were much long-suffering. All the day long has God been stretching forth His hand to "a disobedient and gainsaying people." He gives you mercies, and you take them as your right: He gives you privileges, and you abuse them; He gives you a Saviour, and you "crucify Him afresh"; He offers you His Spirit, and you "do despite to that Spirit of grace." Now is not a moment's forbearance, in such a case, long-suffering?

III. THE REASONS FOR SUCH CONDUCT.

1. "To show His wrath." Yet how could He show His wrath by long-suffering towards sinners? It appears that such a course would hide and not show it. Now the word translated "show," means to point out as with the finger; and in this way God throws into the strongest relief His wrath.(1) He develops His own character of love; He opens out His plans of mercy for years. Well! some may say, "This tolerance of guilt speaks an indifference to it." You are wrong; the Lord's long-suffering is but a blue sky on which you see in fearful and distinct outline the massive storm-cloud as it rolls over the sinner's head and then bursts; it is but the sweet and natural beamings of the Lord's countenance which gives His frown a doubly appalling blackness; it does not lessen His anger; it does not qualify His abhorrence of sin; it does not subtract from, but it adds to, the final display of His just indignation.(2) And in another sense it shows it, for it clearly explains its real character. It is not the wrath of man, or he had struck at once. But the Lord is "slow to anger"; He wills not the death of the sinner; and when at last His wrath is seen, it is that of a Judge who punishes, not "con amore" but "ex officio." The Lord delights in mercy, not in punishment. Wrath must come at last, but it comes with a slow foot. Mercy flies; anger creeps. Patience lingers and lingers at the threshold, keeping punishment knocking at the door. God's endurance is indeed the interpreter of His wrath; it shows that His final destruction of "the vessels of wrath" is not that of an enemy gloating over the fall and death of his foe, but it is that of a father slowly, solemnly, and necessarily banishing a base and incorrigible son for ever from His presence.

2. "To make known His power." But how can power be made known by a refusal to exert that power? Forbearance is often a more splendid achievement than all the labours of Hercules put together. "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city." The Lord's endurance is one of the most signal displays of His omnipotence. When I gaze upon the scene around Calvary, I look upon a more stupendous proof of power than when I behold the hundred and eighty-five thousand corpses of Assyrian warriors, all smitten by the angel of the Lord in one night. And when I look around upon this congregation, and necessarily think of many among you as vessels of wrath endured, enemies of God treated with much long-suffering, I see in each one of you a monument of the Lord's power as notable as in the case of that weeping, wailing, and lost soul. But, lastly, God's long-suffering makes known His power, by giving greater prominence at last to His power of punishing. It is like the stillness before a storm: you may hear a whisper; the rustle of a leaf is noticed; and when the first roll of thunder comes pealing throughout the hushed air, making the ground shake and the rocks resound, its fearful voice is the better articulated owing to the previous stillness; the thunder, like God's power, is made known by the calm which preceded. And what is the conclusion of the whole matter? First of all, by the light of God's Word, and by the aid of prayer, inquire whether you are vessels of wrath or vessels of mercy? Are you united to Christ by a living faith, or alienated from God by wicked works? And if the result of this inquiry be a conviction that you are still a vessel of wrath, oh! tremble over the fact. That vessel becomes more capacious every day; every mercy and long-suffering despised is an enlargement. What will it hold at last if you go on and on increasing its size, and making it fitter and fitter to hold more of that wrath which shall fill but never burst it. Step and pray for grace to arrest this self-fitting for destruction. Pray that the Lord's Spirit may transform you from a vessel of wrath into a vessel of mercy. Pray that His much long-suffering may melt your hard heart, and make you long to have His love instead of His wrath shed abroad in your soul. Pray that the blood of Christ may, as it were, rinse out the polluted vessel, wash away all the wrath, and fill to the brim with mercy — fill it now; and for ever and ever fill it, as throughout eternity that vessel grows larger.

(D. F. Jarman, B.A.)

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.)

I. WHY BELIEVERS ARE COMPARED TO VESSELS. The figure suggests the idea of —

1. Capacity. Capable of being filled. Their value is in their emptiness (2 Kings 4:3-6). Sense of need.

2. Reception. The first thing needed, when emptied, is to receive. Mercy (Romans 9:23; 1 Timothy 1:16). Pardon (Acts 26:18). The engrafted word (James 1:21). Christ (Colossians 2:6). Power (Acts 1:8).

3. Possession. To hold what is put into them. The Word of God (Colossians 3:16; John 15:7). Not leaky (Hebrews 2:1).

II. THE HONOUR CONFERRED ON THESE VESSELS.

1. They bear God's Name (Acts 9:15). Character (Deuteronomy 28:10). Service (Deuteronomy 10:8).

2. They contain God's treasure {2 Corinthians 4:7). The vessel — frail and worthless. The treasure — all powerful and priceless.

3. They are used in God's service (2 Timothy 2:21). Their meetness consists in being set apart — cleansed — filled.

(E. H. Hopkins.)

Evangelical Preacher.
They are such in their —

I. FORMATION.

II. POSITION.

III. CONDITION. Mercy —

1. Pervades their thoughts.

2. Is uttered in their words.

3. Is expressed in their actions.

4. Beams in their looks.

5. Glows in their prayers.

IV. PROGRESSION.

V. PRESERVATION.

VI. GLORIFICATION. Application:

1. If thou be a vessel of mercy, let love and gratitude prompt thee to commend that mercy to others which thou hast received.

2. If a vessel of wrath, let nothing divert you from earnestly seeking mercy at the Cross of Christ.

(Evangelical Preacher.)

I. HIS DESIGN. To display His —

1. Glory.

2. Power.

3. Mercy.

4. Wrath.

II. HIS PROCEDURE.

1. He endures patiently with sinners.

2. Allows them to work out their own ruin.

3. Confers the riches of His grace on them that believe.

4. Prepares them for glory.

III. HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. He calls all men to repentance.

2. Offers them His mercy in Christ.

3. Both Jews and Gentiles.

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

Even us whom He hath called
I. WHO ARE CALLED.

1. Not the righteous.

2. But sinners — both of the Jews and the Gentiles.

II. HOW ARE THEY CALLED.

1. By the gospel.

2. By the ministration of the Word.

3. By the Spirit of God.

III. UNTO WHAT ARE THEY CALLED? To the enjoyment of —

1. Pardon.

2. Holiness.

3. Heaven,

(J. Lyth, D.D.)

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