With respect to the present world, consider what multitudes of thoughts are employed in vain.
1. In seeking satisfaction where it is not to be found.—Most of the schemes and devices of depraved man go to the indulging of his appetite, his avarice, his pride, his revenge, or in some form or other to the gratifying of himself. Look at the thoughts of such a man as Nabal: “Shall I then take my bread and my water, and my flesh, that I have killed for my shearers, and give to I know not whom?” Or of such a man as Haman now aspiring to be the man whom the king delighteth to honour; now contriving the death of a whole people, in revenge of the supposed crime of an individual, Esth. 3. Such, alas! is a great part of the world to this day. What desolations have come upon the earth through the resentments of a few individuals! And those whose situation has afforded them the greatest scope for self-gratification in all its forms are generally the furthest off from satisfaction.
2. In poring on events which cannot be recalled.—Grief, under the bereaving strokes of providence, to a certain degree, is natural, it is true, and allowable; but when carried to excess, and accompanied with despondency, and unthankfulness for continued mercies, it is a great evil. I knew a parent who lost an only child, and who never after appeared to enjoy life. It seemed to me, that if his spirit had been expressed in words, they would have been to this effect: Lord, I cannot be reconciled to thee for having taken away the darling of my heart, which thou gavest me!—All such thoughts are as vain as they are sinful, seeing none can make straight what God hath made crooked.
3. In anticipating evils which never befall us.—Such is our folly, that, as though the evils which necessarily attend the present state were not enough for us to carry, we must let loose our imaginations, and send them into the wilderness of futurity in search of ideal burdens to make up the load. This also is vanity.
4. To these may be added the valuing of ourselves on things of little or no account.—If Providence has given one a little more wealth than another—if he lives in a better house, eats better food, and wears better apparel—what a multitude of self-important thoughts do such trifles breed in the mind! But all is vanity, and rejoicing in a thing of nought.
5. In laying plans which must be disconcerted.—The infinitely wise God has laid one great plan, which comprehends all things. If ours accord with his, they succeed; if not, they are overturned, and it is fit they should. Men, in their schemes, commonly consult their own private interest; and as others are carrying on similar designs for themselves, they meet, and clash, and overturn one another. Thus men, partly by their plans being at variance with that of God, and partly with those of their fellow creatures, are ever exposed to disappointment and chagrin. Their lives are wholly occupied in building Babels, having them thrown down, and fretting against God and their neighbours on account of their disappointments.
In looking at the struggles of different parties for power, whether in a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a democracy, one sees a dangerous rock, which multitudes are climbing at the utmost hazard, and from which great numbers fall and perish; and the same spirit operates through all degrees of men, according to the opportunities which they enjoy.
Excerpt from: “The Vanity of the Human Mind,” Sermon XLV in Sermons and Sketches.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 435–436). Sprinkle Publications.