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be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisyi." Here is the test of true wisdom; here is the evidence of a sound understanding. The man that is destitute of these gracious tempers, is in darkness even until now: but the man who from love to Christ is enabled to live in the habitual exercise of them, has surely an understanding heart, and is made wise unto salvation.]
i Jam. ii. 13–17.
DCCI. THE VANITIES OF THIS WORLD AN OBSTACLE TO SPIRITUAL
PROGRESS. Ps. cxix. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;
and quicken thou me in thy way. THE depths of the human heart are never more plainly disclosed, than when a man comes into the presence of his Maker. Then he opens all his wants, and supplicates relief for all his necessities. The godly man at a throne of grace knows no dissimulation, no concealment, no false humility. What he speaks, (if he be in a right state) he feels. Let us then draw nigh, and listen to the breathings of holy David. He felt the ensnaring influence of worldly things, and the lamentable tendency of fallen man to relax his efforts in the service of his God: hence he poured out his soul in this humble supplication ; “ Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.”
That we may all be stirred up to implore similar blessings at the hands of God, we propose to shew, I. The fascinating power of earthly vanities—
By the word “vanity," we understand all those things which are apt to engross the affections of carnal men. The Apostle classes them all under “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life :" and they all justly deserve the name assigned them in the text, because they are sure to disappoint the desires and expectations of all, who look to them for any solid or permanent satisfaction.
These things altogether captivate and enslave the minds of the generality
The natural man seeks nothing above them. His inind is not occupied with any thing above them. He“ is in the flesh;”. he “ walks according to the flesh," “ fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." His “affections are altogether set upon things below, and not on things above." His thoughts, his conversation, his labours from day to day, all arise from, and terminate in, the things of time and sense: and from these things alone spring all his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows --
These things also have great power over those who profess godliness
[So our Lord has told us in the parable of the Sower. The thorny-ground hearers have made, in appearance at least, a great proficiency in religion. They have far surpassed the stony-ground hearers, who yet have heard the word with joy, and given many cheering and hopeful promises of a future harvest. They have been long established, and brought forth much which both they and others have deemed estimable fruit: but yet, “ through the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, the seed that has grown up in them is choked, and they bring forth no fruit to perfection."
Even persons truly and deeply pious are in great danger from them; else why did our blessed Lord caution even his own immediate disciples in those memorable words, “ Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawaresa.” There is yet an earthly and sensual spirit dwelling in the best of us, and working powerfully to counteract the better dictates of our new man b: and he knows little of his own heart, who does not see and bewail his own proneness to look back again after the flesh-pots of Egypt.]
But whilst we point out thus the danger of earthly vanities, we would point out also, II. The way to escape their baneful influence We should set a guard upon all our senses—
[The senses are inlets to all manner of evil. Alas! alas! how often has the mind been contaminated by what it has either seen or heard! If it were no more than what we have read in books, or heard in conversation, that was calculated to encourage a worldly spirit, we should all feel abundant reason to lament, that we have not been sufficiently on our guard against the admission of bad impressions on the mind. But the vilest lusts have found an entrance into the heart by these a Luke xxi. 34.
6 Gal. v. 17.
avenues. Some have found to their cost, that one sinful idea, which they have either seen in a book or picture, or heard in conversation, has abode with them through life, when they have greatly desired to forget it; whilst hundreds of sermons which they would have been glad to have remembered, have passed from their minds like the early cloud. Behold David, the man after God's own heart; what reason had he to curse the day that he ever looked upon Bathsheba !--- What reason too had Solomon's fool to lament that ever he listened to the voice of the enchanting adulteress"! It is not without reason that Solomon advises us not to look upon the wine when sparkling in the glass d. We must resist the very first entrance of sin into the soul; for it will operate like fire on a house of wood. Alas! “how great a matter does a little fire kindle e!” Its progress is very rapid: and who shall stop the conflagration, when once it is begun? “ When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." We exhort all then, like Solomon, to make a covenant with their eyes, and with their ears also, yea, and with the very imaginations of their heart; that neither their corporeal nor intellectual eyes become ministers of sin, or traitors to their souls.]
We should cry earnestly to God for his effectual grace
[God does and will preserve his people from evil, if they cry unto him. We should therefore call upon him both for his preventing and his quickening grace: we should pray, as David, “ Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.”
There are many ways in which God will turn away our eyes “ from beholding vanity." He will, if we are really seeking it at his hands, keep temptation from us. And how much we are all indebted to him for this, we shall never know, till we come to the bar of judgment, and have all his mercies unfolded to our view. Thousands of our fellow-creatures, who were once as respectable in every point of view as ourselves, have in an hour of temptation so fallen, as to destroy all their own honour and happiness through life. And why have not we done the same? Are we sure that we, if subjected to the same temptations as they, should not have done the same? Oh! if we are wise, we shall cry day and night, “ Lead us not into temptation.” But there are many other ways in which God can, and does, impart the same blessing. Perhaps he lays some affliction upon our loins, and visits us with some personal or domestic calamity. We are apt on such occasions to complain of the affliction; whereas, if we saw from what evils the visitation
c Prov. vii. 6—23. a Prov. xxiii. 31, 32.
f Jam. i. 15.
was sent to deliver us, we should be adoring God for it as the richest of all mercies. Let our distress be either in body or mind, who will not bless God for it, if it be the means of weakening the influence of worldly objects on his soul, and of keeping his eyes from beholding vanity? ---
But, in addition to this, we should cry to him also for his quickening grace. However active we may be in the pursuit of earthly things, we all are too sluggish in our heavenly course. Nine times in this psalm does David cry, “Quicken me!" and ninety times nine do we need to renew the petition every day of our lives. Beg of God then to shew you more and more clearly the excellency of “ his way” (even of that salvation which Christ has wrought out for us ---), and the blessedness of the end to which it leads. This will quicken us more than any thing else. Let us see the excellency of a life of faith ; and that will make us despise the things of sense. Let us also get Pisgah views of the land of Canaan ; and we shall value nothing that can be offered us in this dreary wilderness. Look at Christ as the way, and Christ as the end; and you will soon “ cast away the besetting sins that impede you," and “ run with alacrity the race that is set before you."] ADDRESS1. Young people
[Greatly do you need to offer the petition in our text. O! bear in mind what is the true character of earthly things: they are “ vanity” altogether --- Bear in mind your danger from them : they will ensnare, and, if the snare be not broken, destroy, your souls --- Bear in mind your need of divine grace to counteract their influence. It is God only that can preserve you: and, if not preserved by him, you will fall and perish ---] 2. Those who make a profession of godliness
[Think not that you are above temptation. Satan tempted even our blessed Lord himself, by “shewing him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them." And you will he tempt in like manner. Nor imagine that you may not fall : for Demas was as eminent as any of you, and yet fell at last, through love of this present world". In every Church the sad effect of worldly and carnal lusts is seen. You yourselves see it in others. O, beware lest it be seen in you also. It is your duty, and your happiness, to “ be crucified unto the world, and to have the world crucified unto youi.” You may use this world, if God have given it to you; but you must “ so use it, as not to abuse it;k" and so flee from all occasions of evil, that you may be “found of God at last without spot, and blameless!."]
& Heb. xii. 1, 2. h 2 Tim. iv. 10. with Col. iv. 14. and Phil. 24. i Gal. vi. 14. k 1 Cor. vii. 29–31.
2 Pet. iii. 14.
TRUE LIBERTY. Ps. cxix. 45. I will walk at liberty; for I seek thy precepts.
JUSTLY as civil liberty is appreciated amongst us, there are but few who have just conceptions of that liberty which has respect to morality and religion. Every one knows that unrestrained liberty is licentiousness : but every one does not know, that a perfect obedience to God's Holy Word is the most perfect liberty that man can enjoy. This, however, is plainly intimated in the passage before us; from whence I shall take occasion to shew, I. That the ungodly are strangers to true liberty
They will boast of liberty, and “promise it to all who will conform to their ways; but they are altogether in a state of bondagea." 1. To the world
[The tastes of men differ, according to their age and to the sphere in which they move: but all of every age and every rank are subject to the laws of custom, which they dare not to infringe. Even the religion of men must be conformed to this standard; and God's commandments must be reduced to the scale which men have established for the regulation of their own lives. If one be told what God requires, he immediately bethinks himself, · What will this person say, or that person do, if I comply with requisitions so foreign to the habits of those around me? Will they not deride my singularity, and set themselves to oppose my insufferable preciseness?' To justify their conduct, men put the Scriptures altogether aside, as an antiquated volume, the dictates of which are superseded by the wiser and more practicable maxims of fashion and “philosophy, falsely so called.” Yes: of all unconverted men it is declared, that they “ walk according to the course of this world b,” and “ gaze strangely at any who presume to choose for themselves a holier path."] 2. To the flesh
[There are different degrees in which men yield to the impulse of their corrupt appetites: but every man has “a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin which is in his
a 2 Pet. ii. 19. 6 Eph. i. 2. c 1 Pet. iv. 4.