"Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?"
These words are used by the apostle in his arguments in support of the indisputable and righteous sovereignty of God, and in illustration of the position this appeal is made. It is readily conceded, we presume, that a potter (that is, a mechanic whose occupation it is to make a clay stone or earthen ware) has a right to manufacture his own stock into whatever description of ware he pleases. Should he make a vessel to be used as an ornament for the parlor, and of the same mass of clay another for the vilest use in the kitchen, no sane person would accuse him of injustice - or of transcending his undoubted rights. This figure is used (Isa. 64:8) to show the sovereignty of God in directing the destiny of man, and that we should be passive in his hands. "But now, O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we are the work of thy hand." And in Isaiah 45:9-12, ‘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? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded." Men are thus described as mere potsherds of the earth, the earthen vessels which are formed of the dust, and broken by apostasy, into potsherds; and as such - let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of the earth; or fallen man strive with his fellow fallen man; for they are equals, they occupy equal ground in their strife. But woe to him that striveth with his Maker. How can the clay maintain a conflict with the potter? "He hath no hands." And if the disparity between the clay and the potter is too great to admit of strife, how much greater the distance between man and his Maker. The potter is himself made of the same material of which his hands fashion the vessels which he makes, and the difference between animate and inanimate clay can give but a feeble idea of the infinite disparity of man in his best estate, and his Creator, who has stretched out the heavens, and commanded all the host of heaven and earth. The very earth on which we subsist, and of which we were made, God has created. It belongs wholly to him, and he has a supreme right to dispose of it as he pleases. But he has not only made the earth, but he has also created man upon it. Who shall then be allowed to contest his right to dispose of earth and man as seemeth good in his sight? Have we as the creatures of God any power, any rights, or any privileges, that he has not endowed us with? And can we conceive that a God of all wisdom would endow his creatures with power to subvert his purposes, and prevent the execution of the orders of his eternal throne?
"Shall the vain race of flesh and blood
Contend with their Creator God?
Shall mortal man presume to be
More holy, wise, or just than he?"
If it be admitted then that the potter has a right to form his clay as he pleases, and to fashion from the same lump one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor, can it be denied that God had the right to create just such a world as he has made, and for the very purpose for which he has made it? And that he had the right to diversify his creatures, from the shining angels to the crooked serpent and the groveling worm? Had he not the right to make one star to differ from another star in magnitude and glory? Deny this right and we deny his prerogative to make a greater and a lesser light, and to assign to each their office and their place; the one to rule the day, and the other to rule the night.
The apostle applies this sovereignty of God to his supreme control of our eternal destiny. Has one a hope of life and immortality and another living without hope and without God in the world; who has made them to differ? Jacob is loved of his God and Esau is hated. How comes this to pass? Was Jacob and Esau not made of the same lump of clay? Were they not the children of the same earthly parents, and twin brothers? Certainly they were. Could one more than the other have influenced the love or hatred of their Maker? ("For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, (their mother) the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom. 9:11-12)
For lack of space we leave the subject for the present. We may resume it hereafter, if the Lord will.
December 15, 1861.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 5
Pages 100 - 102