Surely it is the design of God in all his dispensations, and by all the discoveries of his word, to stain the pride of all flesh. The dust is the proper place for a creature, and that place we must occupy. What a humbling thought is here suggested to us! Let us examine it.
1. If vanity had been ascribed to the meaner parts of the creation—if all inanimate and irrational beings, whose days are as a shadow, and who know not whence they came nor whither they go, had thus been characterized—it had little more than accorded with our own ideas. But the humiliating truth belongs to man, the lord of the lower creation—to man, that distinguished link in the chain of being which unites in his person mortality and immortality, heaven and earth. The “Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.”
2. Had vanity been ascribed only to the exercises of our sensual or mortal part, or of that which we possess in common with other animals, it had been less humiliating. But the charge is pointed at that which is the peculiar glory of man, the intellectual part, his thoughts. It is here, if any where, that we excel the creatures which are placed around us. We can contemplate our own existence, dive into the past and the future, and understand whence we came and whither we go. Yet in this tender part are we touched. Even the thoughts of man are vanity.
3. If vanity had been ascribed merely to those loose and trifling excursions of the imagination which fall not under the influence of choice, a kind of comers and goers, which are ever floating in the mind, like insects in the air on a summer’s evening, it had been less affecting. The soul of man seems to be necessarily active. Every thing we see, hear, taste, feel, or perceive has some influence upon thought, which is moved by it as the leaves on the trees are moved by every breeze of wind. But “thoughts” here include those exercises of the mind in which it is voluntarily or intensely engaged, and in which we are in earnest; even all our schemes, contrivances, and purposes. One would think, if there were any thing in man to be accounted of, it should be those exercises in which his intellectual faculty is seriously and intensely employed. Yet the Lord knoweth that even these are vanity.
4. If, during our state of childhood and youth only, vanity had been ascribed to our thoughts, it would have been less surprising. This is a truth of which numberless parents have painful proof; yea, and of which children themselves, as they grow up to maturity, are generally conscious. Vanity at this period however admits of some apology. The obstinacy and folly of some young people, while they provoke disgust, often excite a tear of pity. But the charge is exhibited against man. “Man at his best estate is altogether vanity.”
Excerpt from, “The Vanity of the Human Mind,” Sermon XLIV in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 434–435). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.