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FRAILTY OF MAN.
ISAIAH II. 22.
Ecase ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils ; for wherein is he to be accounted of?
HESE words can never be unseasonably addressed to those who place an undue dependence on any worldly enjoyment; nor will they be uninteresting to those who feel the importance of seeking higher aid, and more permanent objects of trust, than this world can afford. They imply, that mankind are prone to place an undue dependence and affection upon creatures, and suggest very important motives to dissuade from a conduct so sinful and unwise.
In discoursing from them, I shall consider them as the call of God to us, and to every one, to cease from man-to cease from all men-all mere creatures, whatever may be their character, or however promising their condition or prospects. In prosecuting the subject, I shall,
I. Remark briefly upon the import of the expressjon, "Cease ye from man."
II. Consider and illustrate the proposition implied in the text, that mankind are prone to place an undue dependence and affection upon creatures.
III. Offer some considerations to enforce the dissuasion, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of ?"
I. What is implied in the expression, "Cease ye from man?"
Here I observe, negatively, that it does not imply, that we are to disconnect ourselves from the society and friendship of our fellow creatures, nor does it imply, that we are to exercise no affection towards them; nor that we are to hope for no comfort, consolation, or assistance from their love and friendship, while we sojourn in this vale of tears. On the contrary, we are commanded to love all as ourselves, to exercise a tender affection towards those who are nearly connected with us. We are permitted to look to them as instruments of good in the hand of God. We are allowed to hope for consolation from themto hope, that they may be the means of leading us to God, and of exciting emotions of gratitude to Him, who is the prime author of all good, and the disposer of events.
But the words, "Cease ye from man," imply these two things:
1. We ought not to place an undue dependence, nor any undue or excessive affection upon creatures, or any worldly enjoyment. We ought not to place dependence upon man, or put trust or confidence in the children of men, for strength or assistance to deliver us from any evils, or produce any good, otherwise than as means and instruments in the hand of God, and commissioned by him.
2. We should withdraw our confidence and trust from creatures. We should consider their impotence, and place confidence and dependence for assistance, both with respect to time and eternity, in Him alone who changeth not, and who hath everlasting strength. We ought to cease from an undue affection to man. Our supreme affection is due to God. It ought not therefore to be placed on any other object-not even upon our nearest and dearest worldly connections. There is a proper affection to these, which may be great and strong; but if it be not subordinate to the love of God, it is of a wrong
"Cease ye from man." Cease from trusting him. Cease from all undue affection, or idolatrous fondness towards him." Set your affections on things above -not on things on the earth."
II. I proceed to consider and illustrate the proposition, that mankind, both good and bad, are prone to place an undue dependence and affection upon creatures. This is implied in the text, and is evident from all the numerous passages of scripture, in which we are cautioned against an improper attachment to the things of this world, and forbidden to trust in man, in whom there is no help.
It is evident also from experience. How apt are we in civil, religious, and social life, to look to creatures--to means and instruments for help, without a proper feeling of dependence on God! How many are ready to say, that might we have but such and such men set to rule over us, the laws and the times would be better, and we should have greater public happiness and prosperity-not considering, that the hearts of kings and of all rulers are in the hand of the Lord, so that he can turn them whithersoever he will-disconcert every pernicious counsel, and cause even the wicked to rule well, or to do those things which shall be for the good of a people.
Whenever we are prepared for his favors, he has favors in store for us.
How apt are we also to think, that if we might set under such and such ministers of the gospel as we could mention, or if our minister had such gifts and qualifications as we could describe, we should be more edified and engaged; infidelity and error would not be so prevalent, and religion would revive among us-not considering that a "Paul may plant, and an Apollos water" in vain, unless God give increase.
How prone are we, moreover, in social and relative life, to consider, or, at least, to treat, our friends, our children, or near connections as if they were nccessary to our comfort, and as if all our happiness depended upon them-not considering the important truth, that
"Nor children, relatives or friends
Nor all the worldly good he sends,
So with respect to an undue affection, we are very prone to exercise it towards near friends and connections; even to be so much bound up in them, as to encroach upon duty while they are continued, and render us almost comfortless when they are taken away. The reason of this is, the depraved disposition there is in all, "To love the creature more than the Creator"-a disposition to be independent of God. This evil disposition is described, in the word of God, under the names of the flesh-the old man' -indwelling sin. This operates with full strength in the unregenerate, and, though weakened and mortified in true believers, yet, is not wholly eradicated.
And as all are prone to place an undue dependence and affection upon their friends and near connections, so Christians are exceedingly apt to fall into it, on account of their being really one of the greatest comforts and consolations of life; and especially be