The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,…
I. 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.
1. 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 made 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. Collier expresses it in one of his essays, a perfect major: but this is far from being our case now. 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.
2. 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 then 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.
3. 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 now naturally full of vile affections, which, like a mighty and impetuous torrent, carry all before them.
4. 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.
5. Nor does that great and boasted Diana, I mean unassisted, unenlightened Reason, less demonstrate the justness of such an assertion. 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 wilful 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?
6. 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 of our consciences, the depravity of our reason, prove this charge; and does not the present disordered frame and constitution of our bodies 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."
II. THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY THERE IS OF THIS FALLEN NATURE'S BEING RENEWED. 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 can. I suppose I may take it for granted that all hope after death to go to a place which we call heaven. But permit me to tell you, 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." 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 a 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. 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 required, Who is to be the potter? and by whose agency this marred day 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. Neither is this change to be wrought by the power of our own free-will. 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 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, co-essential with the Father and the Son. 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.
( G. Whitefield, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,