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that, the faster he travels, the more he deviates from the path which he should have pursued : he is wholly wrong; and, therefore, the rate of his travelling only leads him faster and further into error. In religion, a man may be ever learning, and yet never able to come to the real knowledge of the truth; because, like the traveller, he takes the wrong road.
Look at the deplorable state of the Heathen World; yet they have had great lights; men of astonishing genius and perseverance. But where are they? You
. can see very little more in the Heathen World, so far as it respects moral considerations in religion, than dreams of vanity and vice. I have dreamed : I have dreamed: but what is all this chaff to the wheat !
And, even under Divine Revelation—when God has spoken-look at the state of the Antediluvians, when God saw the earth covered with wickedness and idolatry. Look at the state of the Jews, after such wonders and signal deliverances :-images worshipped as their gods! Look at the state of Christianity, over a great part of the earth : what superstition ! what tyranny over conscience! what gross imposition on mankind! And even look into the Protestant World—where we profess to rid ourselves of these evils—what divisions, and unscriptural notions !
And what is all this ?-It shows the vanity of human imaginations: the evil of setting up some fancy and idol, instead of simply following God's word : the folly of a man saying, as if he was
fond of his reveries, I have dreamed: I have dreamed.
But, when we reflect on the vanity of human imaginations in religion, we should consider two things :
1. Let us ask, WHAT DO ALL THESE AFFORD TO MAN?
There are certain grand questions which a man has to ask ; and he lies in darkness and sleeps the sleep of death, till he does actually ask these questions, and that very seriously. He should first inquire into his
fallen state, as having departed from the living God, by an awful alienation of heart and apostacy. He should inquire as to any remedy, which God hath appointed in this case : where there is any constitution or appointment, that God hath made in order to a lost sinner's returning to him and being saved. He should consider, therefore, the great question respecting his recovery ;
and then he will find that Jesus Christ is the grand answer to these questions : that there is no name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved, but the name of Jesus Christ :' the merit of Christ's suffering for sin, and the Spirit of Christ giving life to a sinner. This is the grand answer to all serious inquiry, as to the welfare of man.
Now his dreams afford nothing good on these points. They may put a man on a thousand superstitious practices, and may lead him to great corporal austerity ; but what do they afford as to a satisfactory answer to the grand question ?
2. The second thing we should consider, as to the vanity of human imaginations in religion, is not only as to what they afford men, that is nothing, but we should consider HOW MUCH THEY HINDER AND IM
To illustrate what I mean. It is in vain to talk of the Old World : or the state of the Heathens, and Jews, and Papists. Bring the subject to our present condition. It pleases God to appoint the preaching of the Gospel in a neighbourhood ; that is, he opens a spring of life in a dry and barren place. But one man cannot attend, though he lives in the neighbourhood : and why? he leans to his imaginations : he has dreamed! he has dreamed ! he is a Socinian, and cannot bear the doctrines taught in the Church of England. Another is a philosopher truly! he has turned his thoughts to the reason and fitness of things; and cannot attend to the plain and simple preaching of God's word, which calls him to lay down all imaginations,
and reasonings, and be taught by his Great Parent, what is that religion which is acceptable to himself.
Consider, therefore, how much these imaginations stand in a man's way, and become stumbling-blocks to
And there is, besides, a perverse inference often drawn from these facts :--that because men have sought out many inventions, and followed the vanity of their own and others' imaginations, therefore there is no truth in the Bible! Yet, remember, however men have entertained him, that God who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath, in these last days spoken unto us' most plainly, expressly, powerfully and affectingly by his Son.'
II. Having seen the vanity of all human imaginations in religion, let us consider, secondly, the ENERGY OF SCRIPTURAL TRUTH.
This is most strikingly declared in the text. 'Is not my word like as a fire ? saith the Lord: and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Who then will sit down in despair? Or who will set the Almighty at defiance, as if he could not execute his purposes ?
Turn your attention, brethren, to the characters which I have just mentioned, as being led astray by the vanity of human imaginations : you will see the state of even these men, when scriptural truth prevailed
How did some of the Antediluvians walk with God, like Enoch! how did they follow him, like Abraham-not knowing whither they went! The same may be said of the Jews: when they hearkened to the Lord their God, and turned aside from their idols, how did one put a thousand to flight! how did the Lord go before them, opening their way! Take the Church of Rome :-what a glorious Church was the Church of Rome,- but when ?-when it followed human imaginations in religion ? no! it was a glorious Church, when the Apostle wrote his Epistle to the
Romans : its faith sounded throughout the world. Thus was it, too, among Protestants, when they first separated from the superstition of Rome, and followed the Word of God, instead of human imaginations : in purity and zeal they walked with God and glorified him on the earth : they triumphed, not in their lives only, but in their deaths at the stake : but see them following vain imaginations, and, however they might reflect on the Papists' superstition, the Papists migh pity them for denying the only Lord God who bought them.
When you see these men, therefore, under the influence and dominion of the word of God, and trace the effect of it on their hearts, how does it prove the truth of this passage—'Is not
my word like as a fire ? Is it not like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces ??
The kingdom of God,' says our Lord, is like a grain of mustard seed :-too minute almost for perception : but let the seed be sown in the heart, and watered by the Holy Spirit, while the Sun of Righteousness shines upon it, and it shall grow up into a great tree, though invisible in its progress.
“My thoughts,' God says by the prophet Isaiah, are not as your thoughts: for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts: for as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater: so shall my word be, that goeth forth out of my
mouth: it shall not return unto me void; but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. What is the chaff to the wheat ?!--the wheat shall be found to be substantial and nourishing: the fire shall penetrate, burn up the dross, and purify the gold: the hammer shall break
the strong rock in pieces, and shall accomplish that which I please.
Consult facts, to ascertain this energy of divine truth.
Look into the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles; the Gospel of Truth, preached by poor and unlearned men, was “gladly received: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls ! And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer.' Turn, also, to the first chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: there you will see that the Word of God is nutritious, like wheat: penetrating and purifying, like fire; and powerful in its operation, like the stroke of a hammer.-In whom, says the Apostle, 'ye trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise :' it was such an impression as was lasting. So, again, in the First Epistle to the Thessalonians : Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.'
Many suppose that these things were peculiar to the Apostolic times: a plain proof that they know not the true History of the Church, in every age. A man has seen very little of the power of religion, who has not seen marvellous consequences result even from a single hint, grounded on Scripture ;—from a simple tract;—from a very feeble instrument speaking the truth of God.
I will venture to say more. Every true Christian on earth is a witness that God's word is substantial and nourishing, as wheat; that it is purifying and penetrating, like fire; and that it has come as with the stroke of a hammer, to break the hard and rocky heart. Such an one need not to be told the distinction beiween chaff and wheat : he will know that man's ima