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“O Israel, trust in the Lord. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord. Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord.” Solomon says,
“ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart." And Isaiah says, “ Trust ye in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Such are the plain and repeated injunctions which God has laid upon mankind to place their supreme trust and confidence in him. And all these injunctions indirectly forbid them to trust supremely in themselves, or in any other created beings. For it is impossible that they should place their supreme trust in themselves or any other dependent creatures, if they place their supreme dependence upon God.
2. God has not only required men to place their supreme confidence in himself, but expressly forbidden them to trust in themselves supremely. “It is better," says David,“ to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” And again he says, “ Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth: in that very day his thoughts perish.” But we find another more solemn prohibition against trusting in human aid and support, in the seventeenth of Jeremiah. “Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Thus God both indirectly and directly forbids mankind to place their supreme dependence upon one another.
It now remains to show,
III. Why God so expressly and solemnly forbids men to place their supreme trust and confidence in themselves. We may presume he sees good reasons for this, whether we can discover them or not. But it is easy to point out some solid reasons why he should warn all men against this great and dangerous error, to which they are so extremely liable.
1. And here the first reason that occurs is, because mankind are so very unfit objects upon which to place supreme dependence. This is suggested in the text. “ Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.” All men are mortal. They come into the world under a sentence of death, and they are every day and every where liable to the execution of this solemn sentence. Their lives are short and very uncertain. This David realized and said, “ Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am. Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth, and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” In another psalm he bewails the shortness of man's life before God. 66 Thou carriest him away as with a flood; they are as a sleep; in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” And again he says, “As for man, his days are as grass; as the flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Solomon likewise illustrates the uncertainty of life by a very striking similitude. - Man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." Men are continually exposed to both seen and unseen snares and dangers, and never know when nor where they shall breathe their last. But this is certain, when their breath goeth forth, in that very day all their thoughts perish. They can no longer pursue
their purposes, resolutions, or intentions, however wise or benevolent they were. Surely such mortal creatures are very unfit objects of dependence. Let who will trust in them or lean upon them, they are liable to be disappointed in all their hopes and expectations. Again,
Men are extremely frail as well as mortal. Though they may be allowed to live, they may not be allowed to afford their fellow creatures the least relief or support in sickness, danger, or affliction.
They may lose their health, or their limbs, or their senses, by sickness or accident, and become entirely incapable of aiding or supporting those who once had fondly and confidently leaned upon them. Men of high health and the best abilities are continually liable to such fatal disasters. How many such instances of this nature have happened, and how many are now to be seen in the world! The heads of families, the pastors of flocks, and the pillars of the state, are all liable, as well as others, to frailty and imbecility. The strongest man may lose all his strength, the wisest may lose all his wisdom, the richest man may lose all his wealth, and the ablest man may lose all his ability of doing good, in a single moment. The celebrated Pitt fell in the act of pleading the cause of Europe and America. And numberless others have as instantaneously and unexpectedly lost all their powers of doing good to mankind, who needed their kind and benevolent exertions for their assistance and relief. Can such feeble, frail, impotent creatures be proper objects of unreserved trust and confidence ?
It is farther to be observed, that all men are mutable as well as frail. They may have good desires, good designs, and good resolutions, but very suddenly and unexpectedly change them. Those whom they feel disposed to befriend to-day, they may be disposed to oppose and injure to-morrow. Such mutability of purposes and designs have happened in innumerable instances. How many thousands have been deceived, injured, and even ruined, by trusting in those who are given to change! It is characteristic of mankind to change their views, opinions, purposes and affections, as often as their circumstances change. Promising princes, heroic generals, warm patriots, and great philanthropists, who have done noble, beneficent actions, have often become in the course of life the very scourges of those whom they had greatly benefitted. Kind parents have often become unkind; dutiful children have often become undutiful; and brothers, who seemed to be born for adversity, have often become the bitterest enemies. How did Cain treat Abel ? How did Jacob treat Esau ? How did Joseph's brethren treat him ? The mere change of opinion in religion, in politics and far less interesting subjects, has often destroyed the mutual confidence of those who were intimately connected by the ties of friendship and consanguinity. There is but one Being in the universe, who is without variableness or shadow of turning. All others are mutable, and among the most mutable are the children of men, who are entirely unworthy of each other's supreme confidence.
But were mankind neither mortal, nor frail, nor fickle in their nature, yet they are too absolutely dependent to be depended upon. In God they live, and move, and have their being. They are not sufficient of themselves to think, nor speak, nor act. The preparation of their heart and the answer of their tongue is of the Lord. Without him they can do nothing. They may enjoy health and strength, they may possess wisdom and knowledge, and they may feel the kindest disposition, and yet be utterly unable to assist a brother, or a neighbor, or a friend, or a stranger, in distress. God may place them at such a distance from one another, as to prevent their mutual aid and assistance. How often do mankind stand impotent spectators, and see their fellow men perish in the waves, or in the flames, or by enemies, or by accidents, without being able to reach forth their hands for their protection or relief! God fixes the bounds of every one's habitation. He places every person just where he pleases. He separates friends and families. He carries men whither he sees fit, with their intention, or without their intention, or contrary to their intention; and in this way prevents them from aiding, supporting, or relieving one another in any emergency. Or he
may do this as effectually by separating them only for a few hours, at a few miles distance. But even where they are present with each other, there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord. They can do nothing but what he sees fit to be done. They can employ neither their knowledge, nor wisdom, nor strength, any otherwise than he shall determine. They are entirely in his hand, and absolutely at his disposal. How unfit, then, are such entirely dependent creatures to be confided in or depended upon! And how justly and kindly does God admonish us to cease from man, whose breath, whose heart, and whose ways are all under his supreme control!
2. God warns men not to depend upon one another, to preserve them from the numerous dangers and disappointments to which such undue confidence exposes them. Pious and prudent parents always feel disposed to caution their children against going into paths of danger, and exposing themselves to unforeseen evils." So God, the kind parent of the universe, cautions all men to cease placing their ultimate dependence upon one another, in whom there is no help. He knows that neither parents nor children, neither rulers nor subjects, neither the great, nor the wise, nor the good, are worthy of supreme trust and confidence. He knows the greatest, the best, and the worst of mankind, may either intentionally or unintentionally disappoint the trust and hope placed upon them. He knows that any hopes or expectations placed upon any being or object below himself may be completely disappointed. And for ihis good reason he forewarns individuals and public bodies of the danger of trusting unreservedly in any human power, wisdom, or faithfulness. He admonishes every one not to trust in men of low degree, nor men of high degree, for he says they are both a vanity and a lie. And he warns nations not to place confidence in one another. There is a solemn admonition to this purpose, in the thirty-first of Isaiah. “Wo to them that go down to Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many, and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!" “ Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fall together." All undue dependence placed on man, whether by a person or a people, shall draw after it disappointment and regret.
3. God forewarns men not to depend upon one another, because it directly tends to alienate them from himself, and fix them down in ease and security, upon a false and fallible foundation. When men withhold their confidence in God, they always place it on some other object or being, which is both their folly and guilt. So God represents it in respect to his people of old. “My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." Just so far as men trust in one another, they depart from God, and renounce their dependence upon him. And for this he expresses his severest displeasure. 66 Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” Universal observation and experience confirm this truth. All men are naturally too averse to fly to God for aid or assistance, so long as they hope or expect to obtain it from one another. They live very easy and secure while they imagine human help is within their reach. They naturally cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God, so long as they think they can live well without him. Dependence is the primary ground of prayer, devotion and religious worship. So long, therefore, as men can live without a sense of their dependence upon God, they can and will live at a distance from him. How easy and joyfully do multitudes live, without God, without Christ, and without hope of future happiness, while they can lean upon their fellow creatures, and gratify their corrupt hearts in the pursuit of lying vanities ! But whenever these weak and frail supports give way, they will find their need of the presence, favor and assistance of him whom they have forgotten. It is in mercy, therefore, that God forbids them to place their supreme dependence upon any being or object besides himself, who can and will keep them in perfect peace, so long as they trust in him. I may add,
4. God forbids all persons without exception, to place their supreme dependence upon any of their fellow men, however great, or wise, or good they may be, to prevent their ruining themselves for ever. For they are dependent upon him for that, which no other being can bestow upon them; and which even he himself cannot bestow upon them, without their trusting in him, and placing their supreme affection upon him. While they love the world and the things of the world supremely, they cannot love God and the things of God supremely. While they place their supreme trust in themselves, or in their fellow men, they cannot place their supreme trust and confidence in God alone. They must be turned from sin to holiness, and from supreme love of the world, to supreme love to God. But who or what can turn them? Neither men nor means can soften or turn their hearts, and cause them to set their affections on things above, and not upon things on the