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THE POTTER AND THE CLAY

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel .” (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

“My poor clay ever wants to teach God how to be a better potter.” – Berridge. I read those words awhile ago; how similar have been my thoughts. I have many, many times prayed to the Lord to mould me as clay in the hand of the potter, that I might show forth his praise, and be just such a vessel in the service of my God as he would have me. I have thought while thus I have been praying that I was altogether sincere, and surrendered to his sovereign good pleasure, and that I was, and would be, all acquiescence to whatever shape he would fashion me, so long as I could but glorify him in my body and spirit, which are his. I thought it is:

“Sweet to lie passive in His hands
And know no will but His.”

But when the Potter has wrought me upon the wheels, and this poor sinner has been in affliction, with trials, oppressions, temptations, buffetings, I have thought some other way of moulding me into some shape and making me a vessel would be better, and as Berridge says, “My poor clay ever wants to teach God how to be a good potter.” O my soul, how weak, how foolish, how presumptuous thou hast been. I feel ashamed, I blush, I hang down my head, I am in confusion; for just at this moment the words come into my mind, “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counselor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14). Mere natural clay is passive in the hands of the potter; but we poor, puny, sinful pieces of humanity would sometimes resist the Potter, cry out under his forming hands, complain at the hard usage we are subjected to upon the wheels. But how shall we poor clay resist Omnipotence? or frustrate his all-wise, and, unto his elect, the all-gracious, determinate counsel of his will? The chosen of God are described as vessels of mercy, who, as pieces of clay are so wrought of God, they are afore prepared unto glory, and upon whom the Lord will make known the riches of his glory (Rom. 9:23). This is the ultimate end of their calling, their glorification in the resurrection at the last day, when in their whole spirit and soul and body they shall be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore all the fashioning of the clay, all the forming that the elect undergo in the hands of the heavenly Potter is unto God’s glory, and to make them an eternal excellency. Most blessed is the knowledge for the clay to know that it is our heavenly Father who is our potter, and the clay are his children. How sacredly instructive is the scene when Israel in sore afflictions under the chastening hands of the Lord appeals unto God, saying, “But now, O Lord, thou art our father: we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand” (Isaiah 64:8). An earthly potter in his work may make mistakes, and cannot always perfectly carry out his designs, but our God never makes mistakes, the thoughts of his heart stand fast forever.

“In heaven, and earth, and land, and seas,
He executes His firm decrees,
And by His saints it stands confessed
That what He does is ever best.”

“Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also, of the Gentiles?” ( Rom. 9:21-24). I find there can be an assent that we may give to the absolute sovereignty of God; we can at times contend for it with out lips, prove it to be taught in the holy Scriptures, and yet when God in the good pleasure of his will showeth us hard things, and giveth us tears in great measure to drink, we can fret and murmur, be angry and quarrelsome with the Lord our God. It is dreadful, shameful, but so it is. Oh how corrupt, perverse, how vile is a sinner. I, poor base clay in the hands of the Potter, have thought the Lord is moulding me to some shape; his dealings with me are such doubtless I am being made meet for some service in the household of God. Then some providence has befallen me, some new trial has been put upon me, and I have been moved, worked up in this increase of trouble. All my pleasing thoughts that I was arriving at some shape, to be a vessel of some use to honor in the church are gone, and I feel marred in the hand of the Potter, and am now a shapeless mass, no vessel at all, just a useless, confused mass of clay in tribulation upon the wheels. And I have not been as clay should be: submissive to the will of the Potter. To be in acquiescence to the moulding hands of God in his working me upon the wheels of tribulation I need our heavenly Potter to tell me, even while he doeth his pleasure with me that he is my Father, that I am his child, and that I may learn that he foreknew me from everlasting, and that he hath predestinated me to be conformed to the image of his dear Son, and that he hath called me unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, our dear Friend, and Husband, and Savior. Oh, in the consolation of this hope there is rest in all dispensations with me, a vile transgressor. I find no pleasure in telling of those seasons of irreconciliation to the dealings of the Lord with me; except that amidst these trying times I have proved his mercy endureth forever, that his covenant faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds, and I confess once more that it is very iniquity to quarrel with God, our heavenly Father. “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9). Even when in unreconciliation to the fashioning providences of my God how I have sighed over my ways, and mourned unto our heavenly Father, and entreated that he would show me mercy, show me his covenant, that he would give me meekness, and cause me to cleave to him, that I might say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” The language of Isaiah 64:8, has, in my heart, been mine: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father: we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are the work of they hand.” Oh, it is very blessed in the aboundings of God’s grace to say, Amen, Thy will be done. “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise” (Isaiah 43:21). And when the apostle Paul reaches unto the heights of our glory and blessedness with Christ Jesus, when we shall be like him, and see his as he is, when we shall be glorified together with him, when mortality shall be swallowed up of life, and his elect, his redeemed, his bride, shall be presented to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but holy and without blemish, he says, “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing in God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit” (2 Cor. 5:5). The elect are God’s workmanship, and his workmanship is wrought in their regeneration, and sanctification, by the renewing of their minds, by the revelation of Christ in their hearts, by the efficacy of his redemption, by the preciousness unto them of Emmanuel’s atoning, sin-cleansing blood.

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in those arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”

In all of which God maketh us meet to be partakers of the glory that shall be revealed, meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Christ hath redeemed us from the power of the grave, and redeemed us from death. So, when, on the day the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, we look for our precious Lord Jesus from heaven, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Then this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality. Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

“Then shall the church, the Lamb’s own bride,
Both crowned and seated by His side,
Outshine the sun’s meridian ray;
While Jesus, smiling at the sight,
Shall then with a supreme delight
The travail of His soul survey.”

FREDERICK W. KEENE,
Raleigh, NC

SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 97, No. 4
April 1929