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they come into temptation, they are apt to say, as David, I shall one day perish by the hands of Saul." They see no way for their escape; and therefore they fear that the very next wave will overwhelm them utterly
If God at these seasons hide his face from them, they conclude "there is no hope;" they think "his mercy clean gone for ever, and his loving-kindness come utterly to an end for evermore," notwithstanding God has so frequently and so expressly declared, that he will never leave them nor forsake them
Now these persons do not, like the ungodly, deliberately think that God will lie; but they have many misgiving fears lest he should: and that they do so is obvious; for, if they did not, they would take God at his word, and "stay themselves on him when they are in darkness, and have no light."m]
Thus generally is the veracity of him who is truth itself, either questioned or denied
III. But God neither will nor can lie
It is humiliating beyond expression that ministers should be forced to vindicate the veracity of God. But as he himself has seen fit to do so in the sacred oracles, and as the unbelief of men is so inveterate, we submit to the necessity, and proceed to shew that
1. He will not lie
[First, let us hear the testimonies of those who have tried him. Had ever any one more opportunities of proving his fidelity than Moses, Joshua, and Samuel? Yet they all attest in the most solemn manner that he neither had deceived them in any thing, nor ever would".
Next, let us attend to God's own assertions and appeals ---Would he ever venture to speak thus strongly on his own behalf, if his creatures could make good their accusations against him?
Lastly, let us look to matter of fact. He threatened to punish the angels if they should prove disobedient: he denounced a curse on Adam if he should eat of the forbidden tree: he threatened to destroy the whole world with a deluge; and to overwhelm Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone; and to scatter his once chosen people over the face of the whole earth. See now whether he has forborne to execute any of these threatenings? He also promised to send his only dear Son to die for sinners; and to make him great
k Ps. lxxvii. 7---9.
i1 Sam. xxvii. 1. 1 Heb. xiii. 5. m Isaiah 1. 10. "Deut. xxxii. 4. Josh xxiii. 14. 1 Sam. xv. 29. • Isai. v. 4. and xlix. 19.
among the Gentiles, while his own nation should almost universally reject him. Have either of these promises been forgotten? Or, if such promises, and such threatenings, have received their accomplishment, is there any reason to doubt respecting any other that are yet unfulfilled? Are not his past actions so many types and pledges of what he will hereafter perform?]
2. He cannot lie
[Truth is as essential to the divine nature as goodness, wisdom, power, or any other attribute; so that he can as easily cease to be good, or wise, or powerful, as he can suffer "one jot or tittle of his word to fail." If for one moment he could divest himself of truth, he would cease to be deserving of all confidence or affection. Let it only be said of any man, "he is great, and wise, and generous, but no dependence can be placed on his word," would he not on the whole be deemed a contemptible character? How then would Jehovah be degraded, if any such infirmity could be laid to his charge!
It should seem that St. Paul was peculiarly solicitous to guard us against entertaining the smallest possible doubt of the divine veracity; for he abounds in expressions declarative of this perfection. "God," says he, "cannot lie;" and again, "he cannot deny himself;" and again in still stronger terms, "It is impossible for God to lie." Nor let it be thought that this detracts from God's power: for to be able to lie, would be a weakness rather than a perfection: and as it is man's disgrace that he is prone to violate his word; so it is God's honour that he neither will nor can lie.]
1. How vain are the expectations of unconverted
[Men, whatever may be their state, persuade themselves that they shall be happy when they die. But how delusive must be that hope, which is built upon the expectation that God will prove himself a liar! Who are we, that God should (if we may so speak) undeify himself for us? And what security should we have if he were even to admit us into heaven in direct opposition to his own word? Might he not change his word again, and cast us into hell at last? Surely heaven. would be no heaven, if it were held on so precarious a tenure. Let us then lay aside all such delusive hopes. Let us learn to tremble at God's word; and seek to attain that entire change
P 2 Peter ii. 4-9.
Jude vii. Пgóxɛivτai déïqua.
¶ Tit. i. 2.
both of heart and life, to which the promises of salvation are annexed.]
2. How groundless are the fears of the converted!
[There is a holy fear or jealousy that is highly desirable for every one, however eminent, however established. But there is a tormenting slavish fear that arises from unbelief, and which greatly retards our progress in the divine life. Now we ask, Does this fear arise from an apprehension of our own unfaithfulness, or of God's? If it be God's faithfulness that we doubt, let us know that "his gifts and callings are without repentance," and that "where he hath begun a good work he will perfect it unto the day of Christ." If, on the other hand, we suspect our own faithfulness, let us recollect on whom our faithfulness depends: if it depend wholly on ourselves, who amongst us will be saved? Thanks be to God, he who has been the author of our faith, has engaged to be the finisher of it; and has promised, not only that he will not depart from us, but that he will put his fear in our hearts, so that we shall not depart from him.2 Let us then " set to our seal that God is true." Let us commit ourselves to him, knowing in whom we have believed, and assured that, while we stand on the foundation of his word, we are immoveably secure.]
Compare Rom. xi. 29. with the words following the text. u Phil. i. 6. x 2 Cor. iii. 5. Zech. iv. 6.
Jer. xxxii. 39, 40.
a John iii. 33.
e 2 Tim. ii. 19.
b2 Tim. i. 12.
y Heb. xii. 2. Zech. iv. 9.
CCCXLV. THE POTTER'S POWER OVER THE CLAY.
Jer. xviii. 6. 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 my hand, O house of Israel.
WHILE the grandeur of the heavenly bodies fills us with a sense of our own insignificance, we may learn many instructive lessons from the meanest creatures upon carth-The instinctive wisdom of the crane or swallow, the provident care of the ant, and the grateful acknowledgments of the ox and ass, are proposed to us as models for our imitation"-Nor are works of art less capa
a Ps. viii. 3. 4.
b Jer. viii. 7. Prov. vi. 6-8. Isaiah i. S.
ble of suggesting useful hints to a reflecting mind-In the passage before us the Prophet was commanded to observe a potter forming his vessels-And to declare to the Jews that they were, notwithstanding all their boasted strength, as much subject to the will of God as the clay was to the potter's will-To illustrate this we shall shew
I. The power of God over us
We can scarcely conceive any greater power than the potter has over the clay-He forms, or mars, or varies the shape of his vessels, as he pleases-Such is God's power over us
1. Individually considered
[Every man is altogether in the hands of God-Our bodies are instantly brought low, when he sends a fierce disease to prey upon them-Nor can the physician's aid profit us, till he be pleased to bless the means prescribed-Our souls are also entirely dependent upon him. When his time is come, the obdurate relent, the dead arise, the drooping are comforted, and the weak established-Till then, the Bible is a sealed book, and the most faithful ministers are only as sounding brass-]
2. In our collective capacity
[The most flourishing families, how soon are they brought low! And how speedily may they be restored to their former prosperity!-Nor are the most powerful kingdoms less at his disposal He can raise a mighty empire from the most contemptible beginnings-Or reduce it to utter ruin in a single hours-As the smallest motion of the finger suffices to effect any change upon the potter's clay, so the secret volition of the Almighty operates with irresistible energy through the whole creation-]
This truth being universally admitted, we shall proceed to shew
II. What effect the consideration of it should produce upon us
Every perfection of the Deity should occasion some correspondent emotion in our hearts-The thought of his unbounded power over us should lead us
e Job xxxiii. 19-25.
d Ps cvii. 12-20.
f Isaiah li. 1, 2. Deut. vii. 7.
e Job i. 18, 19. and xlii. 12, 13. 8 2 Kings xix. 35. Exod xiv. 28. If this be the subject of a Fust Sermon, the circumstances of the nation may properly be adverted to in this place.
1. To submit to him
[Many of his dispensations are very opposite to our carnal wishes-But we shall not presume ever to arraign his ways His express command, and the example of his most eminent saints, should regulate our conduct"-This is repeatedly taught us under the very image which we are now considering that under every affliction, personal or public, we may say, It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good"-]
2. To trust in him
[We are but too apt in our difficulties to forget that there is an over-ruling providence-But the consideration of God's power would be an effectual antidote to all carnal fears-Hence so many encouraging expostulations in the prophets"-God assured his people that as there was no state so secure but it should be reversed, if they became self-confident; so there was none so desperate, but that they should be delivered out of it, if they placed their confidence in him"-Thus, however dreadful our condition be, the thought of his being our potter must encourage our believing applications to him-]
3. To yield up ourselves to his service
[God wants nothing but to mould us according to his gospel-For this end it is that he afflicts us in such a variety of ways-He expressly pointed out this as the one object which he wished to accomplish with respect to those to whom the text was addressedo—Let us then remember that we are at this instant in the potter's hands-We are fashioning every moment either for heaven or hell-And as he has a power, so has he a right, to form us for either of those places-Let us then pray that we may not be "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, but vessels of mercy prepared unto glory"-Let us examine ourselves whether we be "vessels of honour or of dishonour?"-Let us not rest in fair appearances, but seek for solid evidences-Let us tremble lest we be found at last "vessels wherein he has no pleasure"-And lest, notwithstanding all our profession, he dash us in pieces with a rod of iron
i Isaiah xlv. 9. Rom. ix. 19-21. 1 Isaiah li. 12, 13.
↳ Ps. xlvi. 10. Lev. x. 3.
k1 Sam. iii. 18.
Compare Isaiah x. 4. and xiv. 2. latter part.
P Ver. 11.
Rom. ix. 20-23.
s Psalm ii. 9. Rev. ii. 27.
m Isaiah xl. 27-31.
Isaiah Ixiv. 7, 8.
r 2 Tim. ii. 20-21.