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THE VANITY OF HUMAN IMAGINATIONS.
JEREMIAH XXIII. 28, 2
The prophet, that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he, that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces?
ERROR consists in following the reveries of human imagination, instead of the plain dictates of the Word of God. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light: it suits their natural concupiscence: this therefore is the condemnation, the root of their errors both of heart and head, that they lean to their human understandings and inclinations, instead of the plain directions given them in God's Word.
Against this we find the Prophet entering a solemn protest. My heart within me, says he, is broken, because of the prophets: all my bones shake: I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome; because of the Lord, and be cause of the words of his holiness. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said,
Ye shall have peace: and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you-I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets, that prophesy lies? —which think to cause my people to forget my name, by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour-The prophet, that hath a dream, let him tell a dream: if these men have dreamed something in their own minds that God hath laid no foundation, let them tell it as a dream: it is but a dream: but let them not call it the Word of God: let them not lay it down as a foundation of truth! such a prophet as has thus dreamed, let him tell his dream; but let him tell it as a dream. But he, that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully: let him simply deliver my message: neither adding to it, nor detracting from it: let him speak my word faithfully: for what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord: the dreams of these false prophets are but chaff at the best; and what is all this chaff to the purpose? it is not to be compared to the wheat, which is solid, substantial, and nourishing: what is the chaff to the wheat? saith the Lord: for, Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer, that breaketh the rock in pieces? Is it not efficient? Will it not accomplish that for which I sent it?
This passage discovers, therefore, to us,
1. The VANITY OF ALL HUMAN IMAGINATIONS IN RELIGION.
2. The ENERGY OF SCRIPTURAL TRUTH.
I. Let us consider the VANITY OF ALL HUMAN IMAGINATIONS IN RELIGION.
If a man has a dream, let him tell it as a dream: but let him not bring it forward as any foundation for faith and practice.
In considering this subject, we are to reflect that man is an active being: he must be employed: but, however active he may be, if, in setting forward in a project, he neglect some given standard, to which that project should be brought to try its truth and validity; if he proceed, leaning to his imagination and his own understanding; he resembles a traveller, who sets out perhaps with great energy, and travels at a vast rate: but, so far is he from coming to his point, 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 shews 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, enquire into his fallen state, as having departed from the living God, by an awful alienation of heart and apostacy. He should enquire 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 enquiry, 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 IMPEDE.
To illustrate what I mean. It is in vain to