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By worldly thoughts, therefore, we the occupancy of the mind with matwould understand all speculations ters of mere outward decoration,whateyer which minister, in the most but how dreadfully the evil of covetous distant degree, to either of these three thought is aggravated, when it issues characteristic evils of a worldly, that in repining, and envying, and covetis, a sensual, irreligious, and unspiri- ing, and dishonest plotting for gratitual mind.
fication. Of the first, or carnal and unclean The last class of worldly thoughts thoughts, it is wise to say but little ; is, thoughts of pride and personal vaexcept that any presentation to the nity ;-all that savours of the pride of mind, or any cherishing, however life. And, in this respect, what a dissqueamishly, any image or recollec- graceful scene would the faithful, untion that goes to the indulgence or reserved disclosure of one heart exexcitement of the lust of the flesh, is hibit. How unholy and unchristian irreligious and vain, and in direct op- are the speculations in which men inposition to the authority of God and dulge, on their mental superiority to the best interests of the soul. The others; and the respect due from secret meditations of many a person others to their talents, their situations, of decent external behaviour stand, in and their personal attainments. And this respect, unequivocally condemned how sadly melancholy is the waste of in the sight of God.
hours, lavishly bestowed by many a The next class is covetous thoughts, woman before her glass, upon the air, or all those restless cogitations which the attitude, the studied smile, the connect with the lust of the eye; and becoming attire,--and the almost perindicate a mind more occupied with petual occupation of the mind in the the external trifles and baubles of this contrivance for attraction, till life itpresent world, than with the things self becomes a continued artifice, and which are not seen and which are the face habitually a hypocrite. We eternal. In a world like this, a cer- speak not of personal vanity in men : tain measure of attention must be there is abundance of it; but whergiven to visible things; but the evil ever it exists, it is thoroughly conof which we speak is where the mind temptible; it goes to degrade a man goes forth with such eagerness for the below the notice of his fellows. But additional possession, or additional it is melancholy to think of the prefinery, or so occupies itself about the cious hours of retirement which doarrangements supposed necessary to mestic life affords, being devoted by make these things satisfactory, that any one to meditation and contrivance evidently eternal things become a se- how to produce impression, in the few condary matter; and while the ser
delightful hours of public exhibition. vices of religion degenerate into a The closet will bear a fearful witness form, the heart is gone after its covet- against the vain thoughts of many.
How many are there who Men are tried by the grosser and more might learn even from the wanderings direct temptations of life; but these of their mind in the house of God, how are the tests of character apstrongly the tide of thought sets in, in plied to the comparatively spotless favour of the lust of the eye. We have lives of our wives and our daughters. taken the lowest view of the evil, Lastly, we must enunciate idle
thoughts. The Saviour has said, “Of the Scripture so pointedly condemns. every idle word that man shall speak, And let not any one suppose that there he shall give acoount thereof at the can be but little sin in mere thoughts. day of judgment." And by an idle They can have looked
very superword, He means an useless word, ficially at human nature who have spoken to no good effect-having no not discovered that the thoughts of beneficial influence on himself or the heart are the strongest proof of others. It is the same with thoughts. the character of the man. When God Such useless, unproductive thoughts looked down to judge of the world, are vain indeed. We are the creatures where did He look ?-to the imaginaof a day. Our life is as a vapour which tion of the thoughts of men's hearts, vanisheth away. Yet a contingency of and He found them only evil conunspeakable importance is before us. tinually. And where should the Maker We have already incurred God's of man look, but to the inmost recess anger for our sin ;-His merey offers of the heart that He has made,– us the means of escape, and now we where the secret thought, that his may be lost or saved. Surely, in such fellows cannot discover, stands discireumstances, all those idle or frivo- closed and naked to the eye of Omnilous speculations about matters of potence? And what should go more mere amusement and dissipation, and directly to determine the case of a that dreamy expenditure of time in creature before his Omniscent Judge, which some indulge, must, to say the than those secret speculations which least of it, be vain. But when we are independent of external tempconsider that this listless indolence tations, and which precisely indicate lays the mind open to the temptations the actings of his own will, the goings of the devil, the world, and the flesh, forth of his own unprompted choice, and that nevertheless this mere the voluntary bubbling up of the pasvanity is evidently preferred to oc- sions of his own heart? Set before cupying the mind with God, it as- your mind a rational moral being, sumes the darker character of crimi- gifted with unnumbered blessings from nality, as it shews an unholy pre- the God of his life, apparently amiable, ference of the merest trifles of a and certainly not driven by the consensual existence to the substantial trolling force of circumstances into realities of an everlasting world. temptation, and yet with all this
Thoughts, then, of all these various yes, and with all the advantages of kinds are vain thoughts. They branch religious instruction, with a right off into a variety of particulars; they knowledge of what is sin, and a right assume very different colours and appreciation of the offered help in the shades; but still, in whatever degree, Gospel ; yet, having his heart full of they savour of ungodliness and prac- vain thoughts,ofungodly, unrighteous, tical atheism, of unrighteousness and worldly, or idle thoughts,-in fact, falsehood—of impurity, covetousness, having the soul so intensely ocoupied self-conceit, or hypocrisy--of idleness in its retired meditation, with evil in or uselessness,—they come within the some form or other, that the serious range of that vanity, that earthliness thought of God is actually shut out and destitution of good influence, and from the heart; and that all the riches opposition to the law of God, which of the invitation of mercy fail in win
ning his attention, or of exhibiting to are naturally sinful, and alienated him the God of all grace, as worthy from God by sin, that they put anyof his regard. Take the lowest style thing in the place of God, and prefer of sin, the beggarly speculation of any human rule or opinion to God's personal vanity,--and can there be a law. The measures then best calmore awful proof of alienation from culated to deliver men from the thralGod, than that a man should occupy drom of sin, would be the best also himself in admiring his own outward to lead them to love Him. And God or inward accomplishments, to the has done this by the manifestation of exclusion of the living God from his His own Eternal Son in the flesh, as heart, and to the trifling away of the the atonement for sin, as the effectual opportunity of salvation? It is not to mode of reconciling and restoring a be wondered at that the Searcher of guilty world. Jesus Christ has for hearts should judge a different judg- ever put away sin by the sacrifice of ment from man, and that many who Himself. He has by one propitiatory to us appear amiable, and decent, and offering for ever perfected them that respectable people, should be hateful are sanctified. And the removal of in His sight; because He who sees guilt is the first step to the removal of through the shades of night and enmity. It is the conquest of the through the mystification of the most alienated heart, by the unexpected practised hypocrisy, discovers un- manifestation of Divine compassion. questionably that the heart is not His It is a victory obtained not by power own, that it is joined to idols; nay, and authority, but by Jove. It is that in many cases that idol is the wrought by the declaration of this man's own contemptible self.
truth, “God so loved the world that We come in the second place to he gave his only begotten Son, that notice the remedy for vain thoughts. whosoever believeth in him should not God has graciously provided such a perish, but have everlasting life.” remedy, and it is open to our applica- “God commendeth his love towards tion. We know from the Word of God us, in that, while we were yet sinners, that vain thoughts stand directly op- Christ died for us.” And that this posed to the love of God's law. What- remedy for the renewal of obedience ever therefore would be effectual to in man's heart, might be entirely the planting the love of that law in effectual, God has sent forth His the heart, would be in principle the own Holy Spirit to exhibit the things remedy of the evil. In proportion as of Christ to the soul, and by that that love became predominant, the means to enlighten the understanding salutary influence of the remedy and convert the heart. We are not would be felt; and whenever con- left to take our own unassisted view formity to that law was entirely ob- of the provision of mercy, but the tained, the victory over vanity would mind is guided, enlightened, conbe complete.
vinced, and animated. It receives Now God has taken a very bold again, through the atonement, that and striking means for restoring to principle of holy life, which by sin the alienated hearts of His creatures, we had forfeited ; and consequently the love of His law. Sin is the great returns again to that love of holiness source of vanity. It is because men in which the human heart was first
created, that is, as St. Paul says, “The ligious men so vapid and uninteresting love of God is shed abroad in the to those who truly believe the Gospel, heart by the Holy Ghost, which is that the one is dealing exclusively given unto us.”
with the petty and uncertain interests But now to return to our immediate of a day; the other is sensible that object. How does this spiritual know- he is surrounded and conversant with ledge of God's way of salvation ope- infinities, and has in them an interate as a remedy against vain thoughts? rest of unspeakable value. In the first place, the gift itself is of a Again. The knowledge of God in purifying nature. This salvation by Christ operates as a remedy against grace, through faith, is the way which evil thoughts, because it sets before God has taken to deliver His crea- the mind the true character of God. tures from the power and pollution of It is because we have not known God sin. Christ gave Himself for us, to that we presume to live in sin. It is cleanse us from sin and to redeem us because God is not always sufficiently from our iniquity. And the direct before our eyes that we now indulge influence therefore of a saving know- a vain unholy thought. Now the ledge of Christ is to make us holy, to great feature of the christian religion create in us a clean heart, and to renew is the manifestation of the unseen a right spirit within us. He that hath God. God was manifest in the flesh. this hope in God purifieth himself, i.e. And the great feature of a saving the principle of this hope is as a well knowledge of Christ is the new or of purifying water, springing up in spiritual manifestation of God to the the heart, to cleanse it from its former mind. Through Christ we know Him habits of defilement. And they that and have fellowship with Him. God are Christ's will find a conflict main- is revealed to the mind through tained within them by the spiritual Christ, in His true character. It is weapon of the Gospel, against every shewn to us, that the holiness, purity, high thought and every vain imagi- and justice of God are so inflexible nation, till they are brought in cap- as to appoint His own Son, under the tivity to the obedience of Christ. imputation of guilt, to an accursed
Again. This spiritual knowledge of death; and yet that His benevolence God in Christ, gives the mind superior towards our lost race was such, that and more worthy subjects of contem- in order to deliver sinners He was plation than any that had previously pleased even to adopt this extreme come before it.
The subjects of remedy, and to lay upon His beloved thought in the unchristian mind are Son, the iniquity and the curse of us at best earthly_limited by the inte all; that the Son Himself was willing rests of this present life; and so to be under the imputation and the scanty and unsatisfactory are they, curse of human guilt, in order that that men fly to sin almost for very God might be just, and at the same weariness. But what splendid views time exercise the boundless fulness of have opened before the believing His compassion in justifying the sinmind. How expanded, how fathom
Let such be the real conviction less, the subjects to which revelation of the soul, and how powerfully it leads. This is one of the strong rea- must operate as a remedy against sons that renders the society of irre- every evil thought. “ How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin liation, and death of the same blessed against God.”
Saviour. These are the suggestions Once more. The spiritual know- which arise in the mind when we ledge of God through Christ operates have been brought to a saving belief as a remedy against evil thoughts, in the Gospel of Christ; and if such because it gives such an awful view are our practical views of Christ's of the heinousness of sin. It is only atoning death, and of the guilt of the in the cross of Christ, that we ever sin for which He died, it soon occurs see sin as we ought. It is then only to the mind, that it would be the we can measure its demerits. The
basest ingratitude to live in the midst first sin of our race was about a trifle; of christian knowledge and hope, and the eating of an apple. Its heinous. in the supposed enjoyment of them, ness lay in this, that it was disobe- while the imagination was indulged dience against such a God in such a in anything bordering on ungodly, untrifle. Its consequences, however, righteous, worldly, or idle thoughts upon the whole race, soon shewed and speculations. And thus it is, that something of the evil. From the the mode which God has taken by blood of Abel, downward, the evil of the incarnation and death of His Son, disobedience has been abundantly to bring us back to Himself, operates developed in the history of mankind; in several ways most powerfully to but dreadful as have been its accu- crush, even in the heart of the believer, mulated proofs, never was the extent the risings of that speculative evil, of the evil so awfully exhibited as in which in the conduct of others, has the value of that blood which must be rushed onward to its results, and has shed for the atonement,—the blood of deluged the world with crime and the Son of God. Let the mind then misery. get fairly occupied with this thought, We must conclude, briefly, in the and with all the courses which branch third place, with some short notices out of it, and how fearful must the how we may know, in our own case, guilt of human transgression appear. that the remedy has been effectually And then, instead of the first act of applied to,—that we have actually sin, the eating forbidden fruit, let gone to the Gospel, and found it efany one substitute the feeding of the fectual as a way of delivery from evil imagination, in his own case, on one and vain thoughts. And here the first improper image, and you then bring step is very plain. The Psalmist says, the weight of all the solemn con- “I hate vain thoughts;" if we have siderations that arise out of the cruci- really applied to the remedy, we shall fixion of Christ to bear upon the hate them too. They will be subjects guilt of one vain thought; and then of disgust, aversion, dread, and lamenone instant's indulgence of personal tation. But how, some will say, How vanity, or any other corruption, will can I know that I hate them, when I be seen to have in it the essential find them still unwittingly rising in character of enmity to God, and that me? Let us go a step further. The if it had been the first sin, it would Psalmist says, “I hate vain thoughts: have ruined a whole world; and for but thy law do I love;" and St. Paul, its removal, even if it stood alone, in the same way,--"I find then a would call for the incarnation, humi- law, that, when I would do good,