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    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Thomas Goodwin: The Vanity of Thoughts

From the writings of Thomas Goodwin, we are here treated to an article which helps us to discern what the Bible means by “vain thoughts”:

O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14 ESV)

My scope in our ordinary course is, to discover the wickedness and vanity of the heart by nature. In the heart, we are yet but in the upper parts of it, the understanding, and the defilements thereof, which are to be washed out of it; and the next defilement which in my broken order I mean to handle is that which is here specified, THE VANITY OF YOUR THOUGHTS. For the discovery’s sake of which only, I chose this text as my ground; that is it, therefore, which I chiefly insist upon; a subject which, I confess, would prove of all else the vastest. . . .

By thoughts the Scriptures do comprehend all the internal acts of the mind of man, of what faculty so ever; all those reasonings, consultations, purposes, resolutions, intents, ends, desires, and cares of the mind of man, as opposed to our external words and actions. . . . I mean not to speak of, generally, all thoughts therein, neither, as not of the reasonings or deliberations in our actions, but those musings only in the speculative part. And so I can no otherwise express them to you than thus: Those same first more simple conceits, apprehensions that arise, those fancies, meditations, which the understanding, by the help of fancy, frames within itself of things; those whereon your minds ponder and pore, and muse upon things; these I mean by thoughts. I mean those talkings of our minds with the things we know, as the Scripture calls it, Prov. vi. 22; those same parleys, interviews, chattings, the mind hath with the things let into it, with the things we fear, with the things we love. For all these things our minds make their companions, and our thoughts hold them discourse, and have a thousand conceits about them; this I mean by thoughts. . . .

Take it in all the acceptations of it; it is true of our thoughts that they are vain. It is taken for unprofitableness. So, Eccles. i. 2, 3, ‘All is vain,’ because there is ‘no profit in them under the sun.’ Such are our thoughts by nature; the wisest of them will not stand as in any stead in time of need, in time of temptation, distress of conscience, day of death or judgment: 1 Cor. ii. 6, ‘All the wisdom of the wise comes to naught;’ Prov. x. 20, ‘The heart of the wicked is little worth,’ not a penny for them all. Whereas the thoughts of a godly man are his treasure ‘Out of the good treasure of his heart he brings them forth.’ He mints them, and they are laid up as his riches. Ps. cxxxix. 17, ‘How precious are they!’ He there speaks of our thoughts of God, as the object of them; ‘Thy thoughts ‘ – that is, of thee, ‘are precious.’

Vanity is taken for lightness. ‘Lighter than vanity’ is a phrase used, Ps. lxii. 9; and whom is it spoken of? Of men; and if anything in them be lighter than other, it is their thoughts, which swim in the upper most parts, float at the top, are as the scum of the heart. When all the best, and wisest, and deepest, and solidest thoughts in Belshazzar, a prince, were weighed, they were found too light, Dan. v. 27.

Vanity is put for folly. So, Prov. xii. 11, ‘vain men’ is made all one with men ‘void of understanding’. Such are our thoughts. Among other evils which are said to ‘come out of the heart, Mark vii 22, is reckoned as one, foolishness, that is, thoughts that are such as madmen have, and fools, nothing to the purpose, of which there can be made no use, which a man knows not whence they should come, nor whither they would, without dependence. . . .

Lastly, they are vain; that is, indeed, wicked and sinful. Vanity in the text here is yoked with wickedness; and vain men and sons of Belial are all one, 2 Chron. xiii. 7. And such are our thoughts by nature: Prov. xxiv. 9, ‘The thought of foolishness is sin.’ And therefore a man is to be humbled for a proud thought, Prov. xxx. 32.

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2 Responses

  1. Every day my default is vanity. Every day I need the Holy Spirit to renew my mind. Each day, Lord, help us to seek Your thoughts in Your Word, and be renewed, cleansed, and prepared to enter a world which is anything but renewed, cleansed, and thinking Your thoughts. amen.

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