« AnteriorContinuar »
" is abomination to the Lord, but his fecret is with the 66 righteous. The curfe of the Lord is in the house of the "wicked, but he blesseth the habitation of the just.”
But there is something more in this requeft, than being preferved from practices directly vicious; for the fetting of our hearts upon worldly things, and making them our chief portion and delight, is certainly seeking after vanity and lies. They are far from affording that happiness and peace, which we demand of them, and expect from them. "A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the "riches of many wicked." Can there be any thing more comfortable to experience, than that ftrong expreffion"Thou preparest a table for me in the prefence of mine "enemies, thou anointeft my head with oil, my cup run"neth over." You may also find in the word of God, many warnings of the folly of thofe, who travel in the path of ambition, and put their trust in man. "Surely "men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree "are a lie. Put not your truft in princes, nor in the fon "of man, in whom there is no help. Happy is he that "hath the God of Jacob for his help, whofe hope is in the "Lord his God." But the most comprehenfive remark of all upon this fubject is, that human life itself is fo exceedingly precarious, that it must write vanity and emp. tinefs' on every thing, the poffeffion and ufe of which is confined to the prefent ftate. "Behold thou haft made
my days as an hand-breadth." What a striking picture does our Lord draw of the vanity of human happiness, in that parable of the ground of the rich man, which brought forth plentifully?" And he thought within him"felf, faying, what fhall I do, because I have no room "where to bestow my fruits?"-And while this man is fedulously employed in making provifion for a long and happy life, "God faid unto him, thou fool, this night fhall "thy foul be required of thee, then whofe fhall thofe things "be which thou haft provided?"
The whole of the preceding representation may be fummed up in this excellent fentence of the wife man: "The wicked worketh a deceitful work; but to him that "foweth righteoufly fhall be a fure reward."
Now, my brethren, need I add, how prone we are to be led aftray, in a greater or lefs degree, by fuch "vanity "and lies?"-I do not infift upon the many victims, which, in every age, have been feen to fall by the deftructive hand of vice. How many have been ruined by luft, flain by intemperance, or beggared by difhonefty! But I intreat you particularly to obferve, that when we set our affections immoderately upon any earthly object or enjoyment, or when they are not truly fanctified, how much they disappoint our expectation in poffeffion, and what fcenes of diftrefs we prepare for ourfelves by their re
3. This request, "remove far from me vanity and lies," implies, that God would gracioufly preferve us from deceiving ourselves, and thinking our character better, and our state safer than it really is. When we take a view of the state of the world, and the conduct of those who have not yet caft off all belief of eternity and a judgment to come, it is impoffible to account for their fecurity, but by a great degree of felf-deceit. We may fay of them with the prophet Ifaiah, "He feedeth of afhes; a deceived heart "hath turned him afide, that he cannot deliver his foul, "nor fay, Is there not a lie in my right hand?" And from the representation given by our Saviour, it is plain, that many fhall continue in their miflake, and only be undeceived at the last day. "Not every one that faith unto me, "Lord, Lord, fhall enter into the kingdom of heaven." How awful a reflection this! How dreadful a disappointment to discover our mifery, only when there is no more hope of escaping it! Is there not a poffibility of this being the cafe with many of you, my brethren; and do you not tremble at the thought? I would not with any, in general, to give way to a spirit of bondage, or flavish fear; but the best of the children of God have often difcovered this holy jealoufy of themselves. "Who can understand his "errors? Cleanfe thou me from fecret faults. Keep back "thy fervant alfo from prefumptuous fins; let them not "have dominion over me, then fhall I be upright, and I "fhall be innocent from the great tranfgreffion." And again; "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try
"me, and know my thoughts; and fee if there be any "wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlafting."
This leads me naturally to add upon this fubject, that we ought to pray for prelervation from felf-deceit, as to particular branches of our character and conduct, as well as our general flate.Many, even upon the whole good men, are occafionally and infenfibly brought, for a fealon, under the direction of finful paffions. They may be indulging themfelves without fufpicion, in what is, notwithstanding really provoking to God, injurious or offenfive to others, and, in the iffue, hurtful to their own peace. They may be making an enjoyment a talent, a relation an idol, when they think they are keeping within the bounds of duty. They may be indulging a finful refentment, when they think they are promoting the glory of God. Many an excufe for neglecting commanded duty, from prudence or difficulty, fatisfies ourfelves, which will not fland in the day of trial. What reafon for the prophet's prayer in the 'fenfe juft now afligned, "Remove far from me vanity and
4. In the next place, this requeft implies, a defire to be preferved from pride and felf-conceit, upon any fubject, There is not any thing that affords a fironger evidence of our being unacquainted with ourfelves, and our own flate, than that propenfity to pride and vanity, which is fo common to us all. It is thought by many, that pride was the fin of the angels, that caft them down to hell. It is plain, that pride was the main ingredient in the firft fin of man. And perhaps it is a juft and proper defcription of all fin as fuch, that it is a dethroning of God, and fetting up fell to be loved, honored and ferved in his room. This fin is by no means confined to the wort of men, in whom it hath an abfolute dominion; but retains and difcovers an unhappy influence in the very beft.-Every thing may be the fuel of pride our perfons, our performances, our relations, our poffeffions; nay, fo pliable, and at the fametime fo prepofterous is this difpofition, that men are found fometimes proud of their very vices and defects. But how ill do pride and vanity fuit fuch poor mortals as we are, who feem born but to die?-Who after palling
through a longer or fhorter feries of weakneffes, difappointments and troubles, muft, at last, be laid in the filent grave, to moulder in the duft. We are dependant creatures, who have nothing, and can have nothing but what we receive from the unmerited favor of Ged. We are unwife and ignorant creatures, who know nothing to the bottom, and therefore, are liable to continual miflakes in our conduct. Thofe among us, who have the greatest comprehenfion of mind, and know moft, as it ferves to fhew the comparative ignorance of the bulk of mankind, fo it ferves to convince themselves how little they do know, and how little they can know after all, compared with what is to them unfearchable.
But above all, we are finful creatures, who have rendered our felves, by our guilt, the juft objects of divine difpleafure. Is there any who, dares to plead exemption from this character? And do pride and vanity become those, to whom they manifeftly belong? Can any thing be more foolish, than indulging fuch difpofitions? There is a very juft expreffion of one of the apocryphal writers: "Pride was not made for man, nor a high look for him that is "born of a woman." Indeed they are fo evidently unfuitable to our state and, circumftances, that one would think, we should need no higher principle than our own reafon and obfervation to keep us free from them. We do, however, need the mofl earnest and affiduous addreffes to the throne of grace, to have all pride and vanity removed from us. How hateful is pride to God! We are told, he refifteth the proud." On the contrary, no dif pofition is more amiable in his fight, than humility. "He
giveth grace to the humble." And again: "To this "man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a con"trite fpirit, and trembleth at my word. For thus faith "the high and lofty One, that inhabiteth eternity, whose "name is holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him alfo, that is of a contrite and humble fpirit; to re"vive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of "the contrite ones."
It mult, therefore, be the duty, and intereft of every good man, not only to refift pride and vanity, but to
make it a part of his daily fupplication to God, that he may effectually be delivered from both.
5. In the laft place: This requeft implies a defire to be delivered from fraud and diffimulation of every kind. It is one of the glorious attributes of God, that he is a God of truth, who will not, and who cannot lie. He also requires of all his fervants, and is delighted with truth in the inward parts. But there feems to be fome difficulty in this part of the fubject, more than in the others. Some will fay, why pray to be delivered from fraud and diffimulation? This might be an exhortation to the finner, but cannot be the prayer of the penitent. If they are fincere in their prayer, it feems impoffible there can be any danger of fraud. Fraud implies deliberation and defign; and though it may be concealed from others upon whom it is exercised, it can never be concealed from the person in whom it dwells, and by whom it is contrived. This is the very language of fome reafoners, who infer from it, that though there are many other fins to which a man may be liable without knowing it, yet this can never be the cafe with diffimulation.
But, my brethren, if we confider how apt men are, upon a fudden temptation of fear or fhame, or the profpect of fome advantage to themselves, to depart from strict veracity, and even to juftify to their own minds, fome kinds and degrees of deceptions, we fhall fee the abfolute neceffity of making this a part of our prayer to God. Nay, perhaps I may go further and fay, that we are as ready to deceive ourselves in this point as in any other.
Upon this important fubject, there is one confideration to which I earneftly intreat your attention. Thorough fincerity, fimplicity and truth, upon every fubject, have, in the world, fo much the appearance of weaknefs; and on the contrary, being able to manage and over-reach others, has fo much the appearance of fuperior wifdom, that men are very liable to temptation from this quarter. It is to be lamented that our language itself, if I may fo fpeak, has received a criminal taint; for in common difcourfe the expreffion, a plain well-meaning man is always ap prehended to imply, together with fincerity, fome degree