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I SX'lH.! xii. 2f. And turn ye not aside; for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver, for they are vain.
YE have been prosessing to forsake your wandering lise through the empty creation, and to turn to the Lord as your portion, as your soul's rest, and as your great Lord and Master from henceforth. There is one thing of which I would persuade you, the saith of which would keep you ever with him; and this is, that if you were to change every day, you can never do better, never do so well. This is the scope of our text;. in which we have Samuel's reason to the Israelites for their not turning aside from the Lord in any case i Vol. III. A which
* Delivered at Galashiels. on Sabbath, Sept. 6. 1719,
which i3, " For then should we go-aster vain things, which cannot prosit nor deliver, for they are vain."
These words (without any supplement, and to the same sense, but more forcibly expressed) may be read word for word thus: "And ye shall not turn aside, but aster vain things," &c.; that is, ye cannot turn aside, but you must, by doing so, go aster vain things. The text is a desiance held out to men in their attempts to mend their condition by departing from the Lord. In which there is,
1. A case supposed, which is, That they should turn aside from the Lord ; and having done so, they have the wide world to chuse upon, let them take to the right hand, or to the left, chuse the best they can pitch on, some or all, that what is wanting in one, may be made up in another. This is the utmost extent to which it can be carried.—There is,
2. The determination in this case, which is expressed in the text with all confidence. Ye shall not, ye cannot for your hearts, turn aside, but . aster vain things; I defy you to sind out a substantial good for yourselves in the whole creation, separate from God. Betake yourselves to what you will, to idols that are so already, to other things to make idols of them, make your best of them, you shall never make more os them than vanity, they are unprositable, empty, helpless nothings. —From this subject I take the following
Doctrine, That no man shall mend his condition, but will ruin it, by turning aside from the Lord, let him turn to what hand soever he will.—For illustrating this doctrine, I shall,
I. Offer fome things for explaining this point.
II. Evince the truth of this weighty point.
III. Add the practical improvement.
We are then,
I. To offer some things for explaining this point.—Here I observe,
1. That no man, by turning aside from the Lord, shall mend his condition, but ruin it, in point of rest. to his heart, and satissaction to the desires of it: Isa. lvii. 19. 20. "I create the fruit of the .lips; peace, peace to him that is sar off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast • tip mire and dirt. There is no„peace, saith my God, to the wicked." Every man's heart within him is naturally an hungry, empty thing, which must be silled from something without itself, or it cannot rest. Some, hearing of the soul's satissaction to be had in God, come away to ordinances, and are for a tirne found about the Lord's hand, like the mixed multitude from Egypt among the Israelites. They do net at the very sirst'sind that satissaction for which they look, and they cannot wait; but for haste to be silled, they go back rO the world and their lusts. In this case, \he more haste, the less speed, they are sarther from it than ever.—I observe,
2. That no man, by turning aside from the Lord, shall mend his condition, but ruin it, in point of comfort and ease to his conscience: Psal. xxxii. 3. 5. "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." This is the true way to jjet ease. Hut some awakened sinners seek ease A 2 by by their tears, consessions, resolutions, and the like, not by the blood of Christ: but, alas! those plasters will not stick, they will never draw out the thorn of guilt. Some divert the pain of conscience, by silling their hands and heads with business, like Cain. Some stifle it by sinning, yet more over the belly of convictions. But the lore healed with any of these, which are but mere palliatives, will break out more dreadsully than ever, though perhaps not till there is no remedy. And how is the case thus mended? is it not ruined ?—I observe,
3. That no man, by turning aside from the Lord, shall mend his condition, but ruin it, in point of his interest and advantage: Jer. ii. 13. "For my people have committed two great evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." He who changes, changes for what he accounts the better for himself; yet men often sind themselves disappointed. Nothing draws persons more away from God than interest; but heaven shall be turned nethermost, and earth uppermost in the universe, ere any man, manage as securely as he will, shall ever be a gainer by turning aside from God. For this ye have the concurring testimony of all true penitents, whose eyes have been opened: Hos. ii. 7. "And she shall follow aster her lovers, but she shall not overtake them; and she shall seek them, but shall not sind them ; then shall she say, I will go and return to my sirst husband, for then was it better with me than now."—I observe,
4. That no man, by turning aside from the Lord, will better. his condition, but ruin it," in point of security from evil: Prov. xxviii. 18. ".Whoso walketh uprightly, shall be saved; but
he that is perverse in his ways, shall sall at once." Sin often promises, but can- never atFord a solid shelter. Any hiding-place or desence to which persons betake themselves, turning away from God, is but vanity, and cannot deliver; nay, it exposes them to the way of e*il: Amos, v. 10. "As if i man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand upon the wall, aud a serpent bit him." The Jews, in their crucifying of Christ, are a standing witness to this: John, xi. 48. "If we let him alone," said they, "all men will believe on him, and the Romans (hall come, and take away both our place and nation." Matth. xxii. 7. "But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city."—We now come,
II. To evince the truth of this weighty point, That no man (hall mend his condition, but will ruin it, by turning aside from the Lord, let him turn to what hand soever he will.—We shall do this,
First, By considering to what a person turns aside when he turns from God.
Secondly, By taking a view of what he turns aside from. And,
Thirdly, By inspecting the pretended gain which he acquires by turning aside from the Lord.
First, We are to evince the truth of this weighty point, by considering to what a person turns aside when he turns from God. It is but vanity, which cannot prosit or deliver. There are but two things to which a person can turn aside, though. A3 the