« PreviousContinue »
misery, and obtain future happiness, must be virtuous and well pleasing to God. But when they are under genuine convictions, they see that their hearts are totally depraved, selfish, malignant, opposed to God and all good. They see that their hearts are far more evil, and vile, and guilty than their lives; and that God has much more reason to punish them forever for their internal selfishness, enmity, and malignity, than for their external conduct. This cures them of their self-dependence, self-sufficiency, and self-righteousness. When they were merely awakened, they knew what to do, and were very ready to do it. But when they are convinced that their hearts, their desires, and prayers, and exertions are totally selfish, sinful, and displeasing to God, they see no hope in themselves, and nothing to prevent their utter despair, but the mere sovereign, unpromised mercy of God. Sinners are never under genuine convictions, until they see the total depravity of their hearts, and that they are such guilty and hell-deserving creatures as Christ represents them to be in the text.
6. This subject shows that all sinners, whether awakened or unawakened, are in a very guilty and dangerous situation. They are all totally depraved, and have been continually increasing in depravity and guilt ever since they have been capable of knowing right and wrong, good and evil. As they have increased in age, they have increased in guilt. As they have increased in knowledge, they have increased in guilt. All they have said, and done, and thought, and felt, has been a transgression of the law of love. You cannot look back upon any of the exercises of your hearts, and actions of your lives, with self-complacency and approbation, but only with self-condemnation. You cannot review the blessings you have enjoyed, without a consciousness that you have abused them all. You cannot review the admonitions you have received from the smiles and frowns of providence, without a consciousness that you have been both ungrateful and incorrigible. You cannot recollect either the private or public religious instruction you have received, without a consciousness that you have hated instruction and despised reproof. You cannot review your hearts and lives, without a consciousness that you have been all your days filling up the measure of your sins, and ripening yourselves for an aggravated condemnation. How then, yourselves being judges, can you escape the damnation of hell ? You deserve to be destroyed; God has a right to destroy you, he threatens to destroy you, and he has power to destroy you; and none can deliver
out of his hand. Your feet stand on slippery places, and you may soon slide into the bottomless pit.
Have not some of you lived even to old age? Your day of grace
space of repentance will soon come to a serious and solemn close. Have not some of you passed the meridian of life, and are drawing near to your latter end, and is not your state alarming? And what youth is there in this house, who knows not but that his day of grace may end, and his account may be sealed up before he reaches manhood ? hands be strong, or your hearts endure, in the day that God shall deal with you? Prepare then to meet your God; not to contend with him, but to submit to him; not to justify yourselves, but to justify him, and cordially accept the punishment of your iniquities, and cast yourselves upon his sovereign and un. promised mercy.
mercy. This is your immediate and imperative duty. This subject now calls upon all to inquire whether they have ever seen the plague of their own hearts. The question is not, whether
you have seen and felt that you are a depraved or sinful creature. There is not a single individual but what will readily say this. But can you say that you have seen the total depravity of your hearts, and found yourselves to be as unholy, as selfish, as hostile to God, and to all good, as Christ represents every one in the state of nature to be? If
have not, what evidence have you that you are not yet in your sins, and under the dominion of that carnal mind which is enmity to God? It must be a dark mark to every one who is not willing to answer this question. The essential distinction between a saint and a sinner is this a saint is not totally depraved, but has
:- : some true love to God and man, some repentance, some faith, some submission, and some reliance on the atonement of Christ for pardoning mercy. On the contrary, a sinner is totally destitute of true love, repentance, and faith, and will not submit unconditionally to a damning God. This is a serious question to every awakened sinner who is inquiring what he shall do to be saved. If there be any such, it is easy to tell him what he is, and what he must be. He is an enemy, and must become a friend to God.
VANITY OF THE WORLD.
"ALL that cometh is vanity,"_Eccl. xi. 8.
EXPERIENCE holds a dear, but a very profitable school. Multitudes, who will not learn the most plain and important lessons in
any other school, often become docile in this. Solomon with all his native wisdom and acquired knowledge, for a long time remained ignorant of the vanity of the world ; but by painful experience, he became fully acquainted with it. And after he had learned this very useful lesson, he ardently desired to teach it to mankind in all future ages. pleased with this benevolent desire, and enabled him to gratify it, by transmitting his writings to all future generations by the pen of inspiration. Though he suffered his writings on natural history, and natural philosophy to be buried in oblivion; yet he did not suffer his writings upon the vanity of the world to be lost. His Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, which contain his exper- : imental knowledge, he has stamped with divine authority, and recorded for the instruction and benefit of mankind in their present probationary state. Men are extremely apt to place their happiness in knowledge, power, and property; and though they have often found these sources of happiness to fail of answering their expectations, still they will hope against hope, and fondly imagine that things to come will prove better than things past. But Solomon tells them in the text, that there is no ground for such an expectation. 6 All that cometh is van. ity." The world and the things of the world will be as vain
” in time to come, as they have been in time past. To illustrate this plain and interesting truth, it is proposed,
I. To inquire wherein the things of the world have been vain in time past. And,
II. To inquire what reason we have to believe, that they will be equally vain in time to come.
I. We are to inquire wherein the enjoyments of the world have been vain in time past. Solomon pronounces the world to be vain, in the most extensive and unqualified sense.
66 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities : all is vanity.” This sentiment mankind have universally adopted, either earlier, or later in life. Those who have been raised the highest, and enjoyed the most, in the world, have been as fully convinced of its vanity as those who have been reduced the lowest and suffered the most, among their fellow-men. It cannot be supposed, that mankind in time past would have so universally complained of the vanity of the world, unless they had some way or other been deceived and disappointed in their expectations from it. This naturally leads us to inquire wherein the world has always proved vain to those, who have lived in it, and sought solid happiness, in any earthly possessions, scenes, and objects. Here it may be observed,
1. That the things of the world have always been unsatisfactory to those, who have actually possessed the largest portion of them. Though God has lavished the bounties of providence upon many individuals of mankind; yet those persons have never been satisfied or contented with their external circumstances. None have been satisfied with their wealth, nor with their power, nor with their influence, nor with their greatest prosperity. No man, perhaps, ever had a larger share of what are deemed the greatest and grandest things this world affords, than Solomon. He had more wisdom, more knowledge, more wealth, more fame, and more extraordinary prosperity, than any other king before or after him ever enjoyed. But all these great and splendid objects united, were utterly insufficient to satisfy his rational and immortal mind, and left him in a state of mental poverty and disquietude, which extorted the exclamation, “ Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities ;-all is
, vanity, and vexation of spirit !"
! “ The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." “ He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase." This demonstrates the world to be vain. For if there is no one thing in the world, nor all things in the world, that can satisfy the boundless desires of the mind, then the world must be a vain and empty object to every human soul. Mankind have spared no pains, and left no methods unemployed, to derive satisfaction from the world ; but they could never obtain the object of their pursuit. Though some have obtained the wealth they sought, the knowledge they sought, the honors they sought, the power and influence they sought; yet none have found the contentment and satisfaction they have sought from the world. This carries irresistible evidence of the vanity of all earthly objects and pursuits. If we should search all sacred and profane history, we could not find a single instance of any man's being perfectly satisfied with his worldly attainments and possessions.
2. Mankind in general, have been disappointed in their hopes of gaining the worldly objects of their desires and pursuits. They have hoped to attain a vast many things which they could not attain. How many have endeavored and hoped to attain
. high degrees of useful knowledge, which they never attained. They have set out with zeal and resolution to make great and rapid advances in their intellectual attainments; but have soon found their health or fortune failing, or all their fond hopes and expectations buried in the grave! How many have flattered themselves with high hopes of wealth, and very nearly realized their wishes, when some unexpected events have thrown them into the depths of poverty! How many of shining and popular talents have hoped to rise to places. of great dignity, power, and influence; but have unhappily lost their darling objects, and sunk as far below, as they expected to rise, above others! Many more have been partially, though not totally disappointed in their worldly hopes and prospects. They never accomplished what they hoped to accomplish ; they never obtained the wealth which they hoped to obtain ; they never rose so high in rank, in knowledge, and respectability as they expected to rise; but suffered the pains of broken purposes and sore disappointments, This has been the common experience of mankind in all ages. Pharaoh hoped to prevent the Israelites from fleeing from his kingdom, and after they fled, to bring them back again, but was disappointed. Balaam hoped to gain the wages of unrighteousness from the king of Moab, but was disappointed. Ahab hoped to go to Ramoth-gilead and prosper, but was disappointed. Haman hoped to humble Mordecai and destroy his nation, but was disappointed. Absalom hoped to dethrone his father, and reign in his stead, but was disappointed. Adonijah hoped to take the kingdom out of the hands of his brother Šol. omon, but was disappointed. The vain, and foolish, and wicked hopes of all these men were providentially blasted. All worldly hopes and prospects are always liable to such painful disappointments. No men have more sensibly felt and lamented the vanity of the world, than those, who have been raised the highest in hope, and sunk the deepest in disappointment.
3. All the good which mankind derive from the world is always mixed with evil, which renders it extremely vain. Solomon illustrates the vanity of the world by this consideration.