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 which he made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter: so he made it again, another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the Word of Jehovah came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith Jehovah. Behold, as the clay in the potter's hand, so are ye in My hand, O house of Israel. - JEREMIAH xviii. 2-6.
HUMAN evil, falsity and sin mar God's work with men. But, after every human failure, as long as is possible, God begins, again, with the man, or the nation, and seeks to bring out good results in some other form.
When the potter takes up the clay, he has, in his mind, an ideal form , towards which he works with the clay. But, if his work fails, he tries again. And if he fails again, he tries some other form of vessel, such as the quality of the clay will bear. And so our Lord, as the Divine Potter, has an ideal form, towards which He seeks to shape every nation, and every individual, each as the quality of his mental clay will bear.
The fall of man was a general marring of the human vessel. But the Divine Providence has ever since been exerted to uplift fallen men. And when one dispensation has become corrupted, another has been provided, with changed circumstances, and with new adjustments to the necessities of human conditions. And, even when men seemed determined to destroy themselves in evil, their loving God came down to them, as a Savior, in Jesus Christ. "In His love, and in His pity, He redeemed them."
THE DIVINE THOUGHT.
It is a grand idea that every good human life is a thought of God, a plan formed in the Divine mind, an ideal form in which God shows His Divine glory, by showing His glorious qualities of goodness and truth, reflected in the activities of His human creature.
All the men and women of the great company of the redeemed, that is, of regenerated persons, set forth the goodness of their Maker. When we read that "the heavens declare the glory of God," let us understand, in the highest sense, the inward and spiritual heavens, existing in the re-formed minds of regenerated men, in which the glory of God is declared, when it is reproduced in the good works of His human children.
Every man is a vessel of God, formed for the Lord's purposes; and to carry out the Lord's plans for the happiness of His creatures, in the various uses of life. And, as our Lord has an ideal form for every human life, towards which He is forming the man, spiritually, we can see clearly that the greatest wisdom on the part of any man, is to co-operate with the Lord, in forming the character to the Divine ideal; and how fatally foolish it is for any man to oppose the formative work which God is doing in the man; and thus to mar the ideal form which God intended, the image of God, in which man was created.
As the potter does not waste the clay, even when the vessel is marred, but remolds it into another vessel so our Lord lovingly works with every man, in spite ofthe man's own bad work, in marring God's work. After every human failure, the Lord seeks to re-form the man to such form of spiritual vessel as he is capable of becoming. And our constant effort should be in the same spirit, to make the best of our own manhood and life, in spite of our failures and mistakes. Keeping our attention upon the Divine ideal of a human mind and life, we can always use our efforts to shape ourselves towards that ideal. As a careful housekeeper does not waste, or destroy anything, even if marred, if it can be put to some other good use; so we can daily find some good use for all the leadings of our Lord, and all the circumstances of our experience, compelling everything to yield to us some good. At every point, we can re-model even the marred forms of our life, as long as we are in a formative condition, and not fixed and hardened in evil and sin. But, for right results, it is of no use for any man to work towards any other pattern than that which the Lord provides for us.
THE IDEAL FORM.
But some may ask, How can we know what the Divine ideal for man was, and is? We have this ideal form revealed to us, in the Divine Word, given in many ways, and throughout human history. It carne to men in every dispensation of the church, in each according to the intelligence of the people. Even in low human conditions, it came in. the Ten Commandments which every man could practically follow, at least in form. And, in later days, it carne to us, especially, in the daily life of Christ upon the earth, and in all His teachings in the Gospel.
Everywhere, God reveals Himseif, His own character and works; and He commands men to do their part, in forming their character by the Divine standard. For there is one great standard, only, that is, love, with its wisdom and its power; love, which, in God, is Divine and infinite, and, in man, is finite, and made in the image of God. This is the original ideal form of man ; for God is the Divine Man. This is the ideal man revealed in Eden, and reiterated through all the ages; but, in each age, adapted to that age, and to that genius and quality of men, Natural-minded men have recognized nothing more than a natural ideal of human life. But, in Christianity, God restored to men a higher ideal, in the simplicity of a loving faith in the Lord. But, in His "Second Coming," God reveals Himself in His spiritual aspect, and thus enables men to understand their own manhood in its spiritual aspects.
And, after every fall of men into lower conditions, God has remolded the conditions to re-form men, And we may always observe the practical method of the Lord, in leading men back to better conditions, in that men are never required to have a clear spiritual understanding of truth, prior to their reformation, but that the beginning of every return to the Lord, is in men resisting their own evil desires, whose evil is shown to them by the Word of God. At every step, the man was to cease doing evil, and to keep the Lord's commandments. And every man could do these things, each in the degree of his knowledge and his intelligence.
And thus, the Divine ideal form towards which every man was and is to work, has always been within reach of every man, each in his degree, and on his mental level. And his following the Lord, on that level, was always the way to all progress in re-forming his spiritual manhood. No matter what you may be, now, in the level of your life, If you will cease to do evil, as you see and know evil, and obey the Lord's commandments, the Divine Potter will form of you, some kind of useful vessel able to hold the things of heaven, in some degree.
The practical bearing of all these things is that a man's life and his destiny are matters of character and not of circumstances. Our Lord is not a hard taskmaster, seeking to punish men for their shortcomings and their failures, but He is a loving Father, helping us through our failures, and encouraging us to try again, under His guidance. Every effort of God is to save men, not to condemn them; to give them life, and not to let them fall into spiritual death. [Edward Craig Mitchell 1903]