George Whitefield Sermon 13

The Potter and the Clay

Jeremiah 18:1-6, "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."

At sundry times, and in diverse manners, God was pleased to speak to

our fathers by the prophets, before he spoke to us in these last days by

his Son. To Elijah, he revealed himself by a small still voice. To Jacob,

by a dream. To Moses, he spoke face to face. Sometimes he was pleased to

send a favorite prophet on some especial errand; and whilst he was thus

employed, vouchsafed to give him a particular message, which he was ordered

to deliver without reserve to all the inhabitants of the land. A very

instructive instance of this kind we have recorded in the passage now read

to you. The first verse informs us that it was a word, or message, which

came immediately from the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah. At what time, or

how the prophet was employed when it came, we are not told. Perhaps, whilst

he was praying for those who would not pray for themselves. Perhaps, near

the morning, when he was slumbering or musing on his bed. For the word came

to him, saying, "Arise." And what must he do when risen? He must "go down

to the potter's house" (the prophet knew where to find it) "and there (says

the great Jehovah) I will cause thee to hear my words." Jeremiah does not

confer with flesh and blood, he does not object that it was dark or cold,

or desire that he might have his message given him there, but without the

least hesitation is immediately obedient to the heavenly vision. "Then

(says he) I went down to the potter's house, and behold he wrought a work

upon the wheels." Just as he was entering into the house or workshop, the

potter, it seems, had a vessel upon his wheel. And was there any thing so

extraordinary in this, that it should be ushered in with the word Behold?

What a dreaming visionary, or superstitious enthusiast, would this Jeremiah

be accounted, even by many who read his prophecies with seeming respect,

was he alive now? But this was not the first time Jeremiah had heard from

heaven in this manner. He therefore willingly obeyed; and had you or I

accompanied him to the potter's house, I believe we should have seen him

silently, but intensely waiting upon his great and all-wise Commander, to

know wherefore he sent him thither. Methinks I see him all attention. He

takes notice, that "the vessel was of clay;" but as he held it in his hand,

and turned round the wheel, in order to work it into some particular form,

"it was marred in the hands of the potter," and consequently unfit for the

use he before intended to put it to. And what becomes of this marred

vessel? Being thus marred, I suppose, the potter, without the least

imputation of injustice, might have thrown it aside, and taken up another

piece of clay in its room. But he did not. "He made it again another

vessel." And does the potter call a council of his domestics, to inquire of

them what kind of vessel they would advise him to make of it? No, in no

wise. "He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to

make it."

"Then," adds Jeremiah, whilst he was in the way of duty _ then _

whilst he was mentally crying, Lord what wouldst thou have me to do? "Then

the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do

with you as this potter? Saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the

hands of the potter (marred, and unfit for the first designed purpose) so

are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel." At length, then, Jeremiah hath his

sermon given to him: short, but popular. It was to be delivered to the

whole house of Israel, princes, priests, and people: short, but pungent,

even sharper than a two-edged sword. What! says the sovereign Lord of

heaven and earth, must I be denied the privilege of a common potter? May I

not do what I will with my own? "Behold, as the clay is in the potter's

hands, so are ye in mine hands, O house of Israel. I made and formed you

into a people, and blessed you above any other nation under heaven: but, O

Israel, thou by thy backslidings hast destroyed thyself. As the potter

therefore might justly have thrown aside his marred clay, so may I justly

unchurch and unpeople you. But what if I should come over the mountains of

your guilt, heal your backslidings, revive my work in the midst of the

years, and cause your latter end greatly to increase? Behold, as the clay

is in the hands of the potter, lying at his disposal, either to be

destroyed or formed into another vessel, so are ye in my hands, O house of

Israel: I may either reject, and thereby ruin you, or I may revisit and

revive you according to my own sovereign good will and pleasure, and who

shall say unto me, what dost thou?"

This seems to be the genuine interpretation, and primary intention of

this beautiful part of holy writ. But waving all further inquiries about

its primary design or meaning, I shall now proceed to show, that what the

glorious Jehovah here says of the house of Israel in general, is applicable

to every individual of mankind in particular. And as I presume this may be

done, without either wire-drawing scripture on the one hand, or wrestling

it from its original meaning on the other, not to detain you any longer, I

shall, from the passage thus explained and paraphrased, deduce, and

endeavor to enlarge on these two general heads.

FIRST, I shall undertake to prove, that every man naturally engendered

of the offspring of Adam, is in the sight of the all-seeing, heart-

searching God, only as a "piece of marred clay."

SECONDLY, That being thus marred, he must necessarily be renewed: and

under this head, we shall likewise point out by whose agency this mighty

change is to be brought about.

These particulars being discussed, way will naturally be made for a

short word of application.

FIRST, To prove that every man naturally engendered of the offspring

of Adam, is in the sight of an all-seeing, heart-searching God, only as a

piece of marred clay.

Be pleased to observe, that we say every man NATURALLY engendered of

the offspring of Adam, or every man since the fall: for if we consider man

as he first came out of the hands of his Maker, he was far from being in

such melancholy circumstances. No; he was originally made upright; or as

Moses, that sacred penman, declares, "God made him after his own image."

Surely never was so much expressed in so few words; which hath often made

me wonder how that great critic Longinus, who so justly admires the dignity

and grandeur of Moses's account of the creation, and "God said, Let there

be light, and there was light;" I say I have often wondered why he did not

read a little further, and bestow as just an encomium [praise, approval,

acclaim] upon this short, but withal inexpressibly august [noble, elegant,

superb] and comprehensive description of the formation of man, "so God

created man in his own image." Struck with a deep sense of such amazing

goodness, and that he might impress yet a deeper sense of it upon our minds

too, he immediately adds, "in the image of God made he him." A council of

the most adorable Trinity was called on this important occasion: God did

not say, Let there be a man, and there was a man, but God said, "Let us

make man in our image, after our likeness." This is the account which the

lively oracles of God do give us of man in his first estate; but it is very

remarkable, that the transition from the account of his creation to that of

his misery, is very quick, and why? For a very good reason, because he soon

fell from his primeval dignity; and by that fall, the divine image is so

defaced, that he is now to be valued only as antiquarians value an ancient

medal, merely for the sake of the image and superscription once stamped

upon it; or of a second divine impress, which, through grace, it may yet


Let us take a more particular survey of him, and see whether these

things are so or not: and first, as to his UNDERSTANDING. As man was

created originally "after God in knowledge," as well as righteousness and

true holiness, we may rationally infer, that his understanding, in respect

to things natural, as well as divine, was of a prodigious extent: for he

was make but a little lower than the angels, and consequently being like

them, excellent in his understanding, he knew much of God, of himself, and

all about him; and in this as well as every other respect, was, as Mr.

Golter expresses it in one of his essays, a perfect major: but this is far

from being our case now. For in respect to NATURAL THINGS, our

understandings are evidently darkened. It is but little that we can know,

and even that little knowledge which we can acquire, is with much weariness

of the flesh, and we are doomed to gain it as we do our daily bread, I

mean by the sweat of our brows.

Men of low and narrow minds soon commence wise in their own conceits:

and having acquired a little smattering of the learned languages, and made

some small proficiency in the dry sciences, are easily tempted to look upon

themselves as a head taller than their fellow mortals, and accordingly too,

too often put forth great swelling words of vanity. But persons of a more

exalted, and extensive reach of thought, dare not boast. No: they know that

the greatest scholars are in the dark, in respect to many even of the

minutest things in life: and after all their painful researches into the

Arcana Natura, they find such an immense void, such an unmeasurable expanse

yet to be traveled over, that they are obliged at last to conclude, almost

with respect to every thing, "that they know nothing yet as they ought to

know." This consideration, no doubt, led Socrates, when he was asked by one

of his scholars, why the oracle pronounced him the wisest man on earth, to

give him this judicious answer, "Perhaps it is, because I am most sensible

of my own ignorance." Would to God, that all who call themselves

Christians, had learned so much as this heathen! We should then no longer

hear so many learned men, falsely so called, betray their ignorance by

boasting of the extent of their shallow understanding, nor by professing

themselves so wise, prove themselves such arrant pedantic fools.

If we view our understandings in respect to spiritual things, we shall

find that they are not only darkened, but become darkness itself, even

"darkness that may be felt" by all who are not past feeling. And how should

it be otherwise, since the infallible word of God assures us, that they are

alienated from the light of life of God, and thereby naturally as incapable

to judge of divine and spiritual things, comparatively speaking, as a man

born blind is incapacitated to distinguish the various colors of the

rainbow. "The natural man, (says on inspired apostle) discerneth not the

things of the Spirit of God;" so far from it, "they are foolishness unto

him;" and why? Because they are only to be "spiritually discerned." Hence

it was, that Nicodemus, who was blessed with an outward and divine

revelation, who was a ruler of the Jews, nay a master of Israel, when our

Lord told him, "he must be born again;" appeared to be quite grappled. "How

(says he) can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into

his mother's womb and be born? How can these things be?" Were three more

absurd questions ever proposed by the most ignorant man alive? Or can there

be a clearer proof of the blindness of man's understanding, in respect to

divine, as well as natural things? Is not man then a piece of marred clay?

This will appear yet more evident, if we consider the PERVERSE BENT OF

HIS WILL. Being made in the very image of God; undoubtedly before the fall,

man had no other will but his Maker's. God's will, and Adam's, were than

like unisons in music. There was not the least disunion, or discord between

them. But now he hath a will, as directly contrary to the will of God, as

light is contrary to darkness, or heaven to hell. We all bring into the

world with us a carnal mind, which is not only an enemy to God, but "enmity

itself, and which is therefore not subject unto the law of God, neither

indeed can it be." A great many show much zeal in talking against the man

of sin, and loudly (and indeed very justly) exclaim against the Pope for

sitting in the temple, I mean the church of Christ, and "exalting himself

above all that is called God." But say not within thyself, who shall go to

Rome, to pull down this spiritual antichrist? As though there was no

antichrist but what is without us. For know, O man, whoever thou art, an

infinitely more dangerous antichrist, because less discerned, even SELF-

WILL, fits daily in the temple of thy heart, exalting itself, above all

that is called God, and obliging all its votaries to say of Christ himself

, that Prince of peace, "we will not have this man to reign over us." God's

people, whose spiritual senses, are exercised about spiritual things, and

whose eyes are opened to see the abominations that are in their hearts,

frequently feel this to their sorrow. Whether they will or not, this enmity

from time to time bubbles up, and in spite of all their watchfulness and

care, when they are under the pressure of some sharp affliction, a long

desertion, or tedious night of temptation, they often find something within

rising in rebellion against the all-wise disposals of divine Providence,

and saying unto God their heavenly Father, "what dost thou?" This makes

them to cry (and no wonder, since it constrained one of the greatest saints

and apostles first to introduce the expression) "O wretched man that I am,

who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The spiritual and

renewed soul groans thus, being burdened; but as for the natural and

unawakened man, it is not so with him; self-will, as well as every other

evil, either in a more latent or discernible manner, reigns in his

unrenewed soul, and proves him, even to a demonstration to others, whether

he knows, or will confess it himself or not, that in respect to the

disorders of his will, as well as his understanding, man is only a piece of

marred clay.

A transient view of fallen man's AFFECTIONS will yet more firmly

corroborate this melancholy truth, These, at his being first placed in the

paradise of God, were always kept within proper bounds, fixed upon their

proper objects, and, like so many gentle rivers, sweetly, spontaneously and

habitually glided into their ocean, God. But now the scene is changed. For

we are not naturally full of vile affections, which like a mighty and

impetuous torrent carry all before them. We love what we should hate, and

hate what we should love; we fear what we should hope for, and hope for

what we should fear; nay, to such an ungovernable height do our affections

sometimes rise, that though our judgments are convinced to the contrary,

yet we will gratify our passions though it be at the expense of our present

and eternal welfare. We feel a war of our affections, warring against the

law of our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and

death. So that video meliora proboque, deteriora foquor [latin phrase], I

approve of better things but follow worse, is too, too often the practice

of us all.

I am sensible, that many are offended, when mankind are compared to

beasts and devils. And they might have some shadow of reason for being so,

if we asserted in a physical sense, that they were really beasts and really

devils. For then, as I once heard a very learned prelate, who was objecting

against this comparison, observe, "a man being a beast would be incapable,

and being a devil, would be under an impossibility of being saved." But

when we make use of such shocking comparisons, as he was pleased to term

them, we would be understood only in a moral sense; and in so doing, we

assert no more than some of the most holy men of God have said of

themselves, and others, in the lively oracles many ages ago. Holy David,

the man after God's own heart, speaking of himself, says, "so foolish was

I, and as a beast before thee." And holy Job, speaking of man in general,

says, that "he is born as a wild ass's colt," or take away the expletive,

which as some think ought to be done, and then he positively asserts, that

man is a wild ass's colt. And what says our Lord, "Ye are of your father

the devil;" and "the whole world is said to lie in him, the wicked one, who

now rules in the children of disobedience," that is, in all unrenewed

souls. Our stupidity, proneness to fix our affections on the things of the

earth, and our eagerness to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the

lusts thereof, evidence us to be earthly and brutes!; and our mental

passions, anger, hatred, malice, envy, and such like, prove with equal

strength, that we are also devilish. Both together conspire to evince, that

in respect to his affections, as well as his understanding and will, man

deservedly may be termed a piece of marred clay.

The present BLINDNESS OF NATURAL CONSCIENCE makes this appear in a yet

more glaring light; in the soul of the first man Adam, conscience was no

doubt the candle of the Lord, and enabled him rightly and instantaneously

to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. And, blessed be God!

Some remains of this are yet left; but alas, how dimly does it burn, and

how easily and quickly is it covered, or put out and extinguished. I need

not send you to the heathen world, to learn the truth of this; you all know

it by experience. Was there no other evidence, your own consciences are

instead of a thousand witnesses, that man, as to his natural conscience, as

well as understanding, will and affections, is much marred clay.

Nor does that great and boasted Diana, I mean UNASSISTED UNENLIGHTENED

REASON, less demonstrate the justness of such an assertion. Far be it from

me to decry or exclaim against human reason. Christ himself is called the

"LOGOS, the Reason;" and I believe it would not require much learning, or

take up much time to prove, that so far and no farther than as we act

agreeably to the laws of Christ Jesus, are we any way conformable to the

laws of right reason. His service is therefore called "a reasonable

service." And however his servants and followers may now be looked upon as

fools and madmen; yet there will come a time, when those who despise and

set themselves to oppose divine revelation, will find, that what they now

call reason, is only REASON DEPRAVED, and an utterly incapable, of itself,

to guide us into the way of peace, or show the way of salvation, as the men

of Sodom were to find Lot's door after they were struck with blindness by

the angels, who came to lead him out of the city. The horrid and dreadful

mistakes, which the most refined reasoners in the heathen world ran into,

both as to the object, as well as manner of divine worship, have

sufficiently demonstrated the weakness and depravity of human reason: nor

do our modern boasters afford us any better proofs of the greatness of its

strength, since the best improvement they generally make of it, is only to

reason themselves into downright willful infidelity, and thereby reason

themselves out of eternal salvation. Need we now any further witness, that

man, fallen man, is altogether a piece of marred clay?

But this is not all, we have yet more evidence to call; for do the

blindness of our understandings, the perverseness of our will, the

rebellion of our affections, the corruption our consciences, the depravity

of our reason prove this charge; and does not present DISORDERED FRAME AND

CONSTITUTION OF OUR BODES confirm the same also? Doubtless in this respect,

man, in the most literal sense of the word, is a piece of marred clay. For

God originally made him of the "dust of the earth." So that notwithstanding

our boasting of our high pedigrees, and different descent, we were all

originally upon a level, and a little red earth was the common substratum

out of which we were all formed. Clay indeed it was, but clay wonderfully

modified, even by the immediate hands of the Creator of heaven and earth.

One therefore hath observed, that it is said "God built the man;" he did

not form him rashly or hastily, but built and finished him according to the

plan before laid down in his own eternal mind. And though, as the great God

is without body, parts, or passions, we cannot suppose when it is said "God

made man after his own image," that it has any reference to his body, yet I

cannot help thinking (with Doctor South) that as the eternal Logos was

hereafter to appear, God manifest in the flesh, infinite wisdom was

undoubtedly exerted in forming a casket into which so invaluable a pearl

was in the fullness of time to be deposited. Some of the ancients are said

to have asserted, that man at the first, had what we call a glory shining

round him; but without attempting to be wise above what is written, we may

venture to affirm, that he had a glorious body, which knowing no sin, knew

neither sickness nor pain. But now on this, as well as other accounts, he

may justly be called Ichabod; for its primitive strength and glory are

sadly departed from it, and like the ruins of some ancient and stately

fabric, only so much less as to give us some faint idea of what it was when

it first appeared in its original and perfect beauty. The apostle Paul,

therefore, who knew how to call things by their proper names, as well as

any man living, does not scruple to term the human body, though in its

original constitution fearfully and wonderfully made, a "vile body;" vile

indeed! Since it is subject to such vile diseases, put to such vile, yea

very vile uses, and at length is to come to so vile an end. "For dust we

are, and to dust we must return." This among other considerations, we may

well suppose, caused the blessed Jesus to weep at the grave of Lazarus. He

wept, not only because his friend Lazarus was dead, but he wept to see

human nature, through man's own default, thus laid in ruins, by being

subject unto such a dissolution, made like unto the beasts that perish.

Let us here pause a while, and with our sympathizing Lord, see if we

cannot shed a few silent tears at least, upon the same sorrowful occasion.

Who, who is there amongst us, that upon such a melancholy review of man'

present, real, and most deplorable depravity both in body and soul, can

refrain from weeping over such a piece of marred clay? Who, who can help

adopting holy David's lamentation over Saul and Jonathan? "How are the

mighty fallen! How are they slain in their high places!" Originally it was

not so. No, "God made man after his own image; in the image of God made he

man." Never was there so much expressed in so few words. He was created

after God in righteousness and true holiness.

This is the account, which the sacred volume gives us of this

interesting point. This, this is that blessed book, that book of books,

from whence, together with an appeal to the experience of our own hearts,

and the testimonies of all past ages, we have thought proper to fetch our

proofs. For, after all, we must be obliged to divine revelation, to know

what we were, what we are, and what we are to be. In these, as in a true

glass, we may see our real and proper likeness. And from these only can we

trace the source and fountain of all those innumerable evils, which like a

deluge have overflowed the natural and moral world. If any should object

against the authenticity of this revelation, and consequently against the

doctrine this day drawn from thence, they do in my opinion thereby very

much confirm it. For unless a man was very much disordered indeed, as to

his understanding, will, affections, natural conscience, and his power of

reasoning, he could never possibly deny such a revelation, which is founded

on a multiplicity of infallible external evidences, hath so many internal

evidences of a divine stamp in every page, is so suited to the common

exigencies of all mankind, so agreeable to the experience of all men, and

which hath been so wonderfully handed and preserved to us, hath been so

instrumental to the convicting, converting, and comforting so many millions

of souls, and hath stood the test of the most severe scrutinies, and exact

criticisms of the most subtle and refined, as well as the most malicious

and persecuting enemies, that ever lived, even from the beginning of time

to this very day. Persons of such a turn of mind, I think, are rather to be

prayed for, than disputed with, if so be this perverse wickedness of their

hearts may be forgiven them: "They are in the very gall of bitterness, and

must have their consciences seared as it were with a red-hot iron," and

must have their eyes "blinded by the god of this world," otherwise they

could not but see, and feel, and assent to the truth of this doctrine, of

man's being universally depraved; which not only in one or two, but in one

or two thousands, in every page, I could almost say, is written, in such

legible characters, that runs may read. Indeed, revelation itself is

founded upon the doctrine of the fall. Had we kept our original integrity,

the law of God would have yet been written in our hearts, and thereby the

want of a divine revelation, at least such as ours, would have been

superseded; but being fallen, instead of rising in rebellion against God,

we ought to be filled with unspeakable thankfulness to our all bountiful

Creator, who by a few lines in his own books hath discovered more to us,

than all the philosophers and most learned men in the world could, or

would, have discovered, though they had studied to all eternity.

I am well aware, that some who pretend to own the validity of divine

revelation, are notwithstanding enemies to the doctrine that hath this day

been delivered; and would fain elude the force of the proofs generally

urged in defense of it, by saying, they only bespeak the corruption of

particular persons, or have reference only to the heathen world: but such

persons err, not knowing their own hearts, or the power of Jesus Christ:

for by nature there is no difference between Jew or Gentile, Greek or

Barbarian, bond or free. We are altogether equally become abominable in

God's sight, all equally fallen short of the glory of God, and consequently

all alike so many pieces of marred clay.

How God came to suffer man to fall? how long man stood before he fell?

And how the corruption contracted by the fall, is propagated to every

individual of his species are questions of such an abstruse and critical

nature, that should I undertake to answer them, would be only gratifying a

sinful curiosity, and tempting you, as Satan tempted dour first parents, to

eat forbidden fruit. It will much better answer the design of this present

discourse, which is practical, to pass on

II. To the next thing proposed, and point out to you the absolute

necessity there is of this fallen nature's being renewed.

This I have had all along in my eye, and on account of this, have

purposely been so explicit on the first general head: for has Archimedes

once said, "Give me a place where I may fix my foot, and I will move the

world;" so without the least imputation of arrogance, with which, perhaps,

he was justly chargeable, we may venture to say, grant the foregoing

doctrine to be true, and then deny the necessity of man's being renewed who


I suppose, I may take it for granted, that all of you amongst whom I

am now preaching the kingdom of God, hope after death to go to a place

which we call Heaven. And my heart's desire and prayer to God for you is,

that you all may have mansions prepared for you there. But give me leave to

tell you, were you now to see these heavens opened, and the angel (to use

the words of the seraphic Hervey clothed with all his heavenly drapery,

with one foot upon the earth, and another upon the sea; nay, were you to

see and hear the angel of the everlasting covenant, Jesus Christ himself,

proclaiming "time shall be no more," and giving you all an invitation

immediately to come to heaven; heaven would be no heaven to you, nay it

would be a hell to your souls, unless you were first prepared for a proper

enjoyment of it here on earth. "For what communion hath light with

darkness?" Or what fellowship could unrenewed sons of Belial possibly keep

up with the pure and immaculate Jesus?

The generality of people form strange ideas of heaven. And because the

scriptures, in condescension to the weakness of our capacities, describe it

by images taken from earthly delights and human grandeur, therefore they

are apt to carry their thoughts no higher, and at the best only form to

themselves a kind of Mahomitan paradise. But permit me to tell you, and God

grant it may sink deep into your hearts! Heaven is rather a state than a

place; and consequently, unless you are previously disposed by a suitable

state of mind, you could not be happy even in heaven itself. For what is

grace but glory militant? What is glory but grace triumphant? This

consideration made a pious author say, that "holiness, happiness, and

heaven, were only three different words for one and the self-same thing."

And this made the great Preston, when he was about to die, turn to his

friends, saying, "I am changing my place, but not my company." He had

conversed with God and good men on earth; he was going to keep up the same,

and infinitely more refined communion with God, his holy angels, and the

spirits of just men made perfect, in heaven.

To make us meet to be blissful partakers of such heavenly company,

this "marred clay," I mean, these depraved natures of ours, must

necessarily undergo an universal moral change; our understandings must be

enlightened; our wills, reason, and consciences, must be renewed; our

affections must be drawn toward, and fixed upon things above; and because

flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, this corruptible must

put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality. And thus old

things must literally pass away, and behold all things, even the body as

well as the faculties of the soul, must become new.

This moral change is what some call, repentance, some, conversion,

some, regeneration; choose what name you please, I only pray God, that we

all may have the thing. The scriptures call it holiness, sanctification,

the new creature, and our Lord calls it a "New birth, or being born again,

or born from above." These are not barely figurative expressions, or the

flights of eastern language, nor do they barely denote a relative change of

state conferred on all those who are admitted into Christ's church by

baptism; but they denote a real, moral change of heart and life, a real

participation of the divine life in the soul of man. Some indeed content

themselves with a figurative interpretation; but unless they are made to

experience the power and efficacy thereof, by a solid living experience in

their own souls, all their learning, all their labored criticism, will not

exempt them from a real damnation. Christ hath said it, and Christ will

stand, "Unless a man," learned or unlearned, high or low, though he be a

master of Israel as Nicodemus was, unless he "be born again, he cannot see,

he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

If it be inquired, who is to be the potter? And by whose agency this

marred clay is to be formed into another vessel? Or in other words, if it

be asked, how this great and mighty change is to be effected? I answer, not

by the mere dint and force of moral suasion [persuasion]. This is good in

its place. And I am so far from thinking, that Christian preachers should

not make use of rational arguments and motives in their sermons, that I

cannot think they are fit to preach at all, who either cannot, or will not

use them. We have the example of the great God himself for such a practice;

"Come (says he) and let us reason together." And St. Paul, that prince of

preachers, "reasoned of temperance, and righteousness, and a judgment to

come." And it is remarkable, "that whilst he was reasoning of these things,

Felix trembled." Nor are the most persuasive strains of holy rhetoric less

needful for a scribe ready instructed to the kingdom of God. The scriptures

both of the Old and New Testament, every where abound with them. And when

can they be more properly employed, and brought forth, than when we are

acting as ambassadors or heaven, and beseeching poor sinners, as in

Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God. All this we readily grant. But

at the same time, I would as soon go to yonder church-yard, and attempt to

raise the dead carcasses, with a "come forth," as to preach to dead souls,

did I not hope for some superior power to make the word effectual to the

designed end. I should only be like a sounding brass for any saving

purpose, or as a tinkling cymbal. Neither is this change to be wrought by

the power of our own free-will. This is an idol every where set up, but we

dare not fall down and worship it. "No man (says Christ) can come to me,

unless the Father draw him." Our own free-will, if improved, may restrain

us from the commission of many evils, and put us in the way of conversion;

but, after exerting our utmost efforts (and we are bound in duty to exert

them) we shall find the words of our own church article to be true, that

"man since the fall hath no power to turn to God." No, we might as soon

attempt to stop the ebbing and flowing of the tide, and calm the most

tempestuous sea, as to imagine that we can subdue, or bring under proper

regulations, our own unruly wills and affections by any strength inherent

in ourselves.

And therefore, that I may keep you no longer in suspense, I inform

you, that this heavenly potter, this blessed agent, is the Almighty Spirit

of God, the Holy Ghost, the third person in the most adorable Trinity,

coessential with the Father and the Son. This is that Spirit, which at the

beginning of time moved on the face of the waters, when nature lay in one

universal chaos. This was the Spirit that overshadowed the Holy Virgin,

before that holy thing was born of her: and this same Spirit must come, and

move upon the chaos of our souls, before we can properly be called the sons

of God. This is what John the Baptist calls "being baptized with the Holy

Ghost," without which, his and all other baptisms, whether infant or adult,

avail nothing. This is that fire, which our Lord came to send into our

earthly hearts, and which I pray the Lord of all lords to kindle in every

unrenewed one this day.

As for the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, such as working

of miracles, or speaking with divers kinds of tongues, they are long since

ceased. But as for this miracle of miracles, turning the soul to God by the

more ordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, this abides yet, and will abide

till time itself shall be nor more. For it is he that sanctifieth us, and

all the elect people of God. On this account, true believers are said to be

"born from above, to be born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,

nor of the will of man, but of God." Their second, as well as their first

creation, is truly and purely divine. It is, therefore, called "a

creation;" but put ye on (says the apostle) the new man which is created" _

And how? Even as the first man was, "after God in righteousness and true


These, these are the precious truths, which a scoffing world would

fain rally or ridicule us out of. To produce this glorious change, this new

creation, the glorious Jesus left his Father's bosom. For this he led a

persecuted life; for this he died an ignominious and accursed death; for

this he rose again; and for this he now sitteth at the right hand of his

Father. All the precepts of his gospel, all his ordinances, all his

providences, whether of an afflictive or prosperous nature, all divine

revelation from the beginning to the end, all center in these two points,

to show us how we are fallen, and to begin, early on, and complete a

glorious and blessed change in our souls. This is an end worthy of the

coming of so divine a personage. To deliver a multitude of souls of every

nation, language and tongue, from so many moral evils, and to reinstate

them in an incomparably more excellent condition than that from whence they

are fallen, is an end worthy the shedding of such precious blood. What

system of religion is there now, or was there ever exhibited to the world,

any way to be compared to this? Can the deistical scheme pretend in any

degree to come up to it? Is it not noble, rational, and truly divine? And

why then will not all that hitherto are strangers to this blessed

restoration of their fallen natures, (for my heart is too full to abstain

any longer from an application) why will you any longer dispute or stand

out against it? Why will you not rather bring your clay to this heavenly

Potter, and say from your inmost souls, "Turn us, O good Lord, and so shall

we be turned?" This, you may and can do: and if you go thus far, who knows

but that this very day, yea this very hour, the heavenly Potter may take

you in hand, and make you vessels of honor fit for the Redeemer's use?

Others that were once as far from the kingdom of God as you are, have been

partakers of this blessedness. What a wretched creature was Mary Magdalene?

And yet out of her Jesus Christ cast seven devils. Nay, he appeared to her

first, after he rose from the dead, and she became as it were an apostle to

the very apostles. What a covetous creature was Zaccheus? He was a griping

cheating publican; and yet, perhaps, in one quarter of an hour's time, his

heart is enlarged, and he made quite willing to give half of his goods to

feed the poor. And to mention no more, what a cruel person was Paul. He was

a persecutor, a blasphemer, injurious; one that breathed out threatenings

against the disciples of the Lord, and made havoc of the church of Christ.

And yet what a wonderful turn did he meet with, as he was journeying to

Damascus? From a persecutor, he became a preacher; was afterwards made a

spiritual father to thousands, and now probably sits nearest the Lord Jesus

Christ in glory. And why all this? That he might be made an example to them

that should hereafter believe. O then believe, repent; I beseech you,

believe the gospel. Indeed, it is glad tidings, even tidings of great joy.

You will then no longer have any thing to say against the doctrine of

Original Sin; or charge the Almighty foolishly, for suffering our first

parents to be prevailed on to eat such sour grapes, and permitting thereby

their children's teeth to be set on edge. You will then no longer cry out

against the doctrine of the New Birth, as enthusiasm, or brand the

assertors of such blessed truths with the opprobrious names of fools and

madmen. Having felt, you will then believe; having believed, you will

therefore speak; and instead of being vessels of wrath, and growing harder

and harder in hell fire, like vessels in a potter's oven, you will be made

vessels of honor, and be presented at the great day by Jesus, to his

heavenly Father, and be translated to live with him as monuments of rich,

free, distinguishing and sovereign grace, for ever and ever.

You, that have in some degree experienced the quickening influence

(for I must not conclude without dropping a word or two to God's children)

you know how to pity, and therefore, I beseech you also to pray for those,

to whose circumstances this discourse is peculiarly adapted. But will you

be content in praying for them? Will you not see reason to pray for

yourselves also? Yes, doubtless, for yourselves also. For you, and you only

know, how much there is yet lacking in your faith, and how far you are from

being partakers in that degree, which you desire to be, of the whole mind

that was in Christ Jesus. You know what a body of sin and death you carry

about with you, and that you must necessarily expect many turns of God's

providence and grace, before you will be wholly delivered form it. But

thanks be to God, we are in safe hands. He that has been the author, will

also be the finisher of our faith. Yet a little while, and we like him

shall say "It is finished;" we shall bow down our heads an give up the

ghost. Till then, (for to thee, O Lord, will we now direct our prayer) help

us, O Almighty Father, in patience to posses our souls. Behold, we are the

clay, and thou art the Potter. Let not the thing formed say to him that

formed it, whatever the dispensations of thy future Will concerning us may

be, Why dost thou deal with us thus? Behold, we put ourselves as blanks in

thine hands, deal with us as seemeth good in thy sight, only let every

cross, ever affliction, every temptation, be overruled to the stamping thy

blessed image in more lively characters on our hearts; that so passing from

glory to glory, by the powerful operations of they blessed Spirit, we may

be made thereby more and more meet for, and at last be translated to a

full, perfect, endless, and uninterrupted enjoyment of glory hereafter,

with thee O Father, thee O Son, and thee O blessed Spirit; to whom, three

persons but one God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honor, power, might,

majesty and dominion, now and to all eternity. Amen and Amen.