Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?
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The substance of the clay is the same, but the will of the potter is different. Likewise God made us all of the same substance and we all became sinners, but he had mercy on one and rejected another, not without justice. The potter has only a will, but God has a will and justice to go with it. For he knows who ought to be shown mercy, as I have already said. Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
If this lump of clay were of such indifferent value that it deserved nothing good any more than it deserved anything evil, there would be reason to see injustice in making of it a vessel unto dishonor. But when through the free will of the first man alone, condemnation extended to the whole lump of clay, it is undoubtedly true that if vessels are made of it unto honor, it is a question not of justice not forestalling grace, but of God’s mercy. If however, vessels are made of it unto dishonor, this is to be attributed to God’s justice, not to his injustice—a concept which can hardly exist with God! Letter
It would seem unjust that vessels of wrath should be made unto destruction if the whole lump of clay has not been condemned in Adam. The fact that men become vessels of wrath at birth is due to the penalty they deserve, but that they become vessels of mercy at their second birth is due to an undeserved grace.
Given that our nature sinned in paradise, we are now formed through a mortal begetting by the same divine providence, not according to heaven but according to earth, i. e., not according to the spirit but according to the flesh, and we have all become one mass of clay, i.e., a mass of sin.
First comes the clay which is fit only to be thrown away. We must begin with this but need not remain in it. Afterward comes what is fit for use, into which we can be gradually molded and in which, once molded, we can remain. This does not mean that everyone who is wicked will become good but that no one becomes good who was not once wicked. What is true is that the sooner a man makes a change in himself for the better, the sooner he has a right to be called what he has become.
As long as you are a potter’s vessel, you must first be broken by the iron rod of which it was said: “You will rule them with a rod of iron, and you will break them as a potter’s vessel.” Then, when the outer man is destroyed and the inner man is renewed, you will be able, rooted and grounded in love, to understand what is the length and breadth and height and depth, to know even the overwhelming knowledge of the love of God. So because from the same lump of clay God has made some vessels for noble use and others for ignoble, it is not for you, whoever you are who still lives according to this lump (that is, who are wise by the standards of earthly sense and the flesh), to dispute what God has decreed.
It is not possible to say on the basis of this [verse] that there are different types of human nature, nor does holy Scripture claim that some people have been made cruel or obdurate or even vessels of honor and wickedness, nor does it attribute this kind of nature to them. Rather, it should be understood to mean that some men are made like clay vessels and that we use them either for honor or for dishonor. .
Do not dare to condemn God or imagine that he showed mercy on one and hardened another by accident, for it was according to the power of his foreknowledge that he gave each one his due. Nor is he guilty because he knew in advance what would happen, but rather each of those who was foreknown in this way is responsible for his own actions, whether good or evil. .
God does nothing at random or by mere chance, even if you do not understand the secrets of his wisdom. You allow the potter to make different things from the same lump of clay and find no fault with him, but you do not grant the same freedom to God! … How monstrous this is. It is not on the potter that the honor or dishonor of the vessel depends but rather on those who make use of it. It is the same way with people—it all depends on their own free choice.