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« is abomination to the Lord, but his secret is with the
righteous. The curse 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 request, than being preserved from practices directly vicious; for the setting 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 strong expression“ Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine “ enemies, thou anointest my head with oil, my cup run. “ neth over.” You may also find in the word of God, many warnings of the folly of those, 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 trust 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, whose hope is in the “ Lord his God.” But the most comprehensive remark of all upon this subject is, that human life itself is so exceedingly precarious, that it must write “vanity and emp• tiness' on every thing, the poffeffion and use of which is confined to the present state. « Behold thou hast 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, saying, what shall I do, because I have no room “ where to bestow my fruits?" —And while this man is sedulously employed in making provision for a long and happy life, “God said unto him, thou fool, this night shall "thy soul be required of thee, then whose shall those things “ be which thou haft provided ?”
The whole of the preceding representation may be fummed up in this excellent sentence of the wise man: “ The wicked worketh a deceitful work; but to him that “ soweth righteously shall be a fure reward.”
Now, my brethren, need I add, how prone we are to be led astray, in a greater or less degree, by such “ vanity " and lies?"-I do not insist upon the many victims, which, in every age, have been seen to fall by the destructive hand of vice. How many have been ruined by luft, sain by intemperance, or beggared by dishonesty! But I intreat you particularly to observe, that when we set our affections immoderately upon any earthly object or enjoyment, or when they are not truly sanctified, how much they disappoint our expectation in posseflion, and what scenes of distress we prepare for ourselves by their removal.
3. This request, "remove far from me vanity and lies," implies, that God would graciously preserve 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 cast off all belief of eternity and a judgment to come, it is impossible to account for their security, but by a great degree of self-deceit. We may fay of them with the prophet Ifaiah, “He feedeth of ashes; a deceived heart “ hath turned him aside, 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 shall continue in their mistake, and only be undeceived at the last day. “ Not every one that faith unto me, “ Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.” How awful a reflection this! How dreadful a disappointment to discover our misery, only when there is no more hope of escaping it! Is there not a possibility of this being the case 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 slavilh fear; but the best of the children of God have often discovered this holy jealousy of themselves. • Who can understand his “ errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back “thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not " have dominion over me, then shall I be upright, and I “ shall be innocent from the great transgression.” And again; “Search me, O God, and 'know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any "Wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
This leads me naturally to add upon this subject, that we ought to pray for preservation from fell-deceit, as to particular branches of our character and conduct, as well as our general siate. Many, even upon the whole good men, are occasionally and insensibly brought, for a sealon, under the direction of finful paffions. They may be indulging themselves without fufpicion, in what is, not with. standing really provoking to God, injurious or offensive to others, and, in the issue, 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 indiulging a sinful resentment, when they think they are proinoting the glory of God. Many an excuse for neglecting commandes duty, from prudence or difficulty, satissies ourselves, which will not sland in the day of trial. What reason for the prophet's prayer in the Tenfe just now afligned, “ Remove far, from me vanity and 6 lies."
4. In the next place, this request implies, a desire to be preserved from pride and self-conceit, upon any subject, There is not any thing that affords a stronger evidence of our being unacquainted with ourlelves, and our own llate, than that propensity to pride and vanity, which is so com. mon to us all. It is thought by many, that pride was the fin of the angels, that cali them down to hell. It is plain, that pride was the main ingredient in the first sin of man. And perhaps it is a just and proper description of all fin as fucli, that it is a vietiironing of God, and fciting up fell to be loved, honored and served in his room. This fin is by no means confined to the worli of men,' in whom it hath an absolute dominion; but retains and dilcovers an unhappy influence in the very best.--Every thing niay be the fuel of pride : our persons, our performances, our relations, our pofleffions; nay, so pliable, and at the same time so preposterous is this difpofition, that men are found sometimes proud of their very vices and defects. But how ill do pride and vanity fuit fuch poor mortals as wę are, whọ scem born but to die ? ---llo afier' pailing
through a longer or shorter series of weaknesses, disappointments and troubles, must, at lalt, be laid in the silent grave, to moulder in the dust. We are dependant creatures, who liave nothing, and can have nothing but what we receive from the unmerited favor of God. We are unwise and ignorant creatures, who know nothing to the bottom, and therefore, are liable to continual miliakes in our conduct. Those among us, who have the greatest comprehension of mind, and know mosi, as it serves to thew the comparative ignorance of the bulk of mankind, so it ferves to convince themselves how litile they clo know, and how little they can know after all, compared with what is to them unsearchable.
But above all, we are sinful creatures, who have rendered ourselves, by our guilt, the just objects of divine displeafure. Is there any who dares to plead exemption from this character? And do pride and vanity become those, to whom they manifestly belong? Can any thing be more foolish, than indulging such dispositions? There is a very just expression 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 so evidently unsuitable to our state and circumstances, that one would think, we should need no higher principle than our own season and observation to keep us free from them. We do, however, need the moli carnelt and alliduous acldrelles to the throne of grace, to have all pride and vanity removed from us. -How hateful is pride to God! We are fold," he refifteth the proud.” On the contrary, no dil. position 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 tremblech 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 also, 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 interest of every good man, not only to refift pride and vanity, but to
make it a part of his daily supplication to God, that he may effectually be delivered from both.
5. In the last place : This requeft implies a desire 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 seems to be some difficulty in this part of the subject, more than in the others. Some will say, why pray to be delivered from fraud and dissimu. lation? 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 impossible there can be any dan. ger of fraucl. Fraud implies deliberation and design ; 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 some reasoners, 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 consider how apt men are, upon a sudden temptation of fear or fhame, or the profpect of some advantage to themselves, to depart from strict veracity, and even to justify to their own minds, fome kinds and degrees of deceptions, we shall see the absolute necessity of making this a part of our prayer to God. Nay, perhaps I may go further and say, that we are as ready to deceive ourselves in this point as in any other.
Upon this important subject, there is one consideration to which I earnestly intreat your attention. Thorough fincerity, fimplicity and truth, upon every subject, have, in the world, so much the appearance of weakness; and on the contrary, being able to manage and over-reach others, has so much the appearance of fuperior wisdom, that men are very liable to temptation from this quarter. It is to be lamented that our language itself, if I may fo speak, has received a criminal taint; for in common discourfe the expreslion, a plain we!! reaning man is always apprehended to imply, together with fincerity, fome degree