That which has been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.…
I. EVERY CONDITION IS CLOGGED WITH VANITY.
1. God never made the world, nor any condition in it, to be a place of rest and satisfaction. And since sin hath so far marred the beauty of the universe, there is a judicial vanity upon the whole creation (Romans 8:20).
2. We know but very little of the true nature of things, nor of ourselves, nor of our temptations, nor of our interests (Job 8:9).
3. That little that we do know of anything, we come so droppingly to the knowledge of it that, ere we can lay things together, so as to compare them, and separate them, and sort them, and compound them, so as if to make a judgment, either things them. selves or our circumstances are altered, or upon alteration.
II. ALL THINGS ON THIS SIDE RELIGION, WHEREBY MEN ENDEAVOUR TO GET ABOVE VANITY, INCREASE IT. The multiplication of cyphers amounts to less than nothing. Can anything of the world supply the soul with grace, satisfy the desires in so much as any one thing, or fill any one faculty of the soul to satisfaction? Can the world fill the mind with heavenly light, or the will with heavenly love, or the conscience with that "peace that passeth understanding"?
III. IT IS ONLY SERIOUS GODLINESS THAT CAN ANY WHIT REALLY ABATE THE VANITY THAT CLEAVES TO EVERY CONDITION. To hate sin and love holiness; to live a life of faith, in dependence upon God and resignation to Him; to live above the transports of hopes and fears about things temporal; in short, to be blessings to the world while we live, and to be blessed with God when we die: this is the business and fruit of serious godliness; and this alone is that which at present can effectually abate the vexatious vanities which every condition swarms with.
1. Serious godliness will make your present condition good for you, be it what it will.
2. Serious godliness will make every change of condition good for us, though the change shock both nature and grace.
3. Serious godliness will make relative afflictions (which of all outward afflictions are the most grievous) good for us; and nothing else can do it.
4. Serious godliness will make horror of conscience and Divine desertions good for us.
5. Serious godliness will force something good out of the evil of sin. The rising ground of a dunghill may help to raise thy flight towards heaven.
6. Though to your own apprehension you have no faith at all to believe any one word of all this, nor any skill at all to know what to do; yet serious godliness will make all this good to thee.Uses: —
1. Set your hears upon serious godliness.
2. Learn to be more than barely contented with your present condition.
3. Make conscience of both sorts of duties, — religious and worldly; and allot fit and distinct times for heavenly and worldly business. But with this difference, let religion mix itself with worldly business, and spare not; but let not the world break in upon religion, lest it spoil it.
4. Whatever you do for the bettering of your condition, follow God, but do not go before Him.
(S. Annesley, LL. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.