« السابقةمتابعة »
My brethren, I am perfuaded that this fubject can hardly be, at any time, unfeasonable to a Chriftian affembly, as our misplaced, exceffive, and unreasonable defires are the greatest enemies to our progress in holiness, as well as to our comfort and peace. Perhaps, however, there are some circumstances that render it peculiarly proper for this auditory. Young perfons are very apt to cherish vast and boundless defires as to outward things; and having not yet experienced the deceitfulness of the world, are apt to entertain exceffive and extravagant hopes. The truth is, rich and poor, young and old, may here receive a leffon of the utmost moment.
Let me therefore intreat your attention, while I endeavor to open and improve this paffage of the holy fcrip tures; beginning, at this time, with the firft requeft"Remove far from me vanity and lies."
In difcourfing on which, I will endeavor,
I. To explain the import of it, or fhew at what it chiefly points, and to what it may be fuppofed to extend.
II. Apply the fubject for your instruction and directi
I. I am to explain the import of the prophet's prayer, or fhew at what it chiefly points, and to what it may be fuppofed to extend, in the petition, "Remove far from "me vanity and lies." The word vanity, especially when it is joined, as it is frequently in fcripture, with lying, or lies, is of a very large and comprehenfive fignification. The word in the original, tranflated vanity, properly fignifies lightness or emptiness; and lies fignify falsehood, in oppofition to truth.
I imagine we fhall have a clear conception, both of the meaning and force of this phrafe, if we make the following remark: God himself is the great fountain of life and existence; the great I AM, as he emphatically ftyles himfelf to Mofes; the original and the only reality, if I may fo fpeak. All other beings have only a dependent and precarious existence; fo that the creation itself, though his own work, compared to him, is vanity. "Vanity of
vanities, faith the preacher, vanity of vanities, all is va"nity." Therefore, in a particular manner, the word is often used to denote the folly of all idolatrous worship; or the giving the refpect and honor to any thing elfe, which is due to God alone. "They have moved me to jealoufy "with that which is not God, they have provoked me to "anger with their vanities. Are there any among the "vanities of the Gentiles, that can caufe rain; or can "the heavens give showers, art thou not he, O Lord our "God."
Sometimes it is ufed to denote the folly or unprofitableness of any vice, and particularly of an ill-founded conceit of ourfelves, as well as of all fraud and diffimulation, in word or action. So that this prayer for our fouls, fhort as it appears to be, when confidered in its full extent, will be found to contain a great variety of important matter.— This I fhall endeavor to give you a brief account of, under the following particulars.
1. We are hereby taught to pray, that we may be preferved by divine grace, from all falfe and erroneous principles in religion; fo as we may neither be deceived by them ourselves, nor any way instrumental in deceiving others. This, by what has been faid of the ufe of the words in scripture, appears to be implied in the request, and it is of more moment than fome are willing to allow, The understanding being the leading faculty, an error there, fpreads its unhappy influence through the whole. temper and life. Whereas, on the contrary, light in the mind produces fidelity and fecurity in the confcience, and tenderness in the converfation. You may obferve, that through the whole hiftory of the Old Teftament, idolatry, or a departure from the knowledge and worship of the true God, is the leading fin, and the fruitful fource of every other vicious practice. We fometimes, indeed, feem to fland aftonished at the exceffive pronenefs of the ancient Jews to this fin. But we need only a little reflection to difcover, that an evil heart of unbelief continues the fame at bottom, and daily produces the like dangerous effects. How prone have men been in all ages, to depart from the fimplicity of the truth In how many different shapes
have they perverted it! One age, or one country, has been polluted by one error, and another by an oppofite, impelled by the unftable and irregular fancies of men of corrupt minds. In the laft age, the great theme of the carnal reasoner was, to attempt to expofe the fcripture doctrine of God's certain knowledge, and precife ordina tion of all events; and in this, fate and neceffity have become the firong hold of infidelity, and are embraced, or feem to be embraced, by every enemy of true religion without exception. Error, fhifting its ground, indeed, is but natural; for lying vanities are innumerable; but the true God is the fame "yefterday, to day, and forever."
At this very time, how abounding and prevalent is infidelity, calling in queftion the most important and fundamental principles, both of natural and revealed religion! And how properly is this defcribed, bythe expreffion in the text, vanity and lies; for it always takes its rife from the pride and vanity of the human heart! Sometimes a pride of understanding, which afpires to pafs judgment on things far above its reach, and condemn things long before they are examined and understood: Sometimes, alfo, from a pride of heart, or felf-fufficiency, that is unable to endure the humbling and mortifying view, given us in fcripture, of our character and flate. Oh how readily do men turn aside from the truth! With what greedine's do they drink in the flattering but deftructive poifon! Need I point out to you the fatal effects of fuch principles taking place? It loofens the obligations to obedience, takes off the edge of the reproofs of confcience, and thus removing restraints, leaves men, in the emphatical language of the holy fcripture, "to walk in the ways of their own hearts, "and in the fight of their own eyes."
But in this request, "remove far from me vanity and "lies," I would not have you confine your views to the moft grofs infidelity and avowed oppofition to God. Pray alfo, that you may be preferved from error, or miftake of any kind; but efpecially fuch as have the greateft influence on the fubftance of religion.
A clear apprehenfion of the holy nature, and righteous government of God-the infinite evil of fin-the founda
tion of our peace in the blood of the atonement-and the renewing of our natures by the Holy Ghoft, feem to me abfolutely neceffary to true and undefiled religion. And they are the truths, which particularly ferve to exalt the Creator, and lay the creature in the duft. When, therefore, we confider how grateful to corrupt nature every thing is, that tends to foster pride-to create fecurity, and fet the mind at eafe, in the indulgence of fin; we must be fenfible of how great importance it is, to pray for divine direction, and divine preservation. Nothing is more dan. gerous to men than confidence and presumption-nothing more useful in faith and practice, than humility and selfdenial.
2. This prayer implies, a defire that we may be pre ferved from fetting our affections on fuch objects, as are but vain and unfatisfying, and will, in the end, difappoint our expectation. I take this to be not only a part, but a very important part of the prophet's meaning. The world is the great fource of temptation; the powerful and unhappy influence of which we may daily fee; or rather, all of us daily and fenfibly feel. What is it poffeffes the fancy, mifleads the judgment, inflames the affections, confumes the time, and ruins the foul, but these present enjoyments, of which the wifeft of men, after a full trial of them, hath left us their character vanity of vanities.
I am fenfible that I have now entered upon a fubject, which is far from being difficult to enlarge upon, and yet perhaps, very difficult to treat with propriety, or in fuch a manner, as to have the intended effect. There is nothing more easy than, in a bold declamatory way, to draw pictures of the vanity of human life. It hath been done by thousands, when, after all their broken fchemes, and disappointed views, they have juft fuffered fhipwreck upon the coaft of the enchanted land of hope. But from fuch men we may expect to hear the language of despair, ras ther than of experience; and as it is too late for the inftruction of the fufferers, fo it very rarely has any effect in warning others to avoid the danger. What I would, therefore, willingly attempt, is, to confider this matter in a fober fcriptural light; if fo be that it may please God
to carry conviction to our hearts, and make it truly use ful, both to fpeaker and hearers.
Let me, therefore, my brethren, point out to you, precifely, wherein the vanity of the world lieth. The world, in itself, is the workmanship of God, and every thing that is done in it, is by the ordination, or permiffion of God. As fuch, it is good, and may be ufed in fubferviency, to his honor, and our own peace. But through the corrup tion of our nature, the creature becomes the rival and competitor of the Creator for our hearts.When we place our fupreme happiness upon it, inftead of making it a mean of leading us to God, then its inherent vanity immediately appears. When men allow themfelves in the indulgence of vicious pleafitres, how juftly may they be called vanity and lies? They are fmiling and inviting to appearance, but how dreadful and deftructive in their ef fects? "Whoredom and wine, and new wine take away "the heart." Thofe who refufe to be confined by the laws of piety and fobriety, vainly think they are walking at liberty, when they are bringing themfelves into fubjection to the fevereft and moft inflexible of all mafters. Read the juft and ftriking defcription, by Solomon, of the effects of whoredom; and reflect on the innumerable calamities brought, in every age, on perfons and families. by unbridled luft. See alfo the effects of intemperance and excefs" Wine is a mocker, ftrong drink is raging, "and whofoever is deceived thereby is not wife." And again: "the drunkard and glutton fhall come to poverty.
Look not upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth "its colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright; at "laft, it biteth like a ferpent, and flingeth like an adder."
Think on the unhappy confequences, of difhonefly and fraud. "Bread of deceit is fweet to a man, but after"wards his mouth fhall be filled with gravel."-You may alfo fee, in innumerable paffages of fcripture, that opprelfion of others, as it is a fin of the deepeft dye, fo it is often remarkably overtaken, and punished in the courfe of Providence, even in the prefent life. "Envy thou not the oppreffor, and choofe none of his ways; for the froward VOL. II.