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Mat. VII. 26.
And every one that heareth these Sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a fooli/h Man, which built his House upon the Sand.
V. 27. And the Rain descended, and the Floods came, and the Winds blew, and beat upon that House: and it fell, and great was the Fall of it.
The Fourth Sermon on this Text.
AFTER the Description of a good and wise Christian, with the good Success of his Labours, which we had in the two preceding 1 Verses: Here follows now the contrary Description of a bad Christian, together with his Imprudence, and the Unsuccessfulness of his Labour. These are the three Points I shall speak to from the Words namely,
1. The Description of the bad Christian; he is one who hears our Saviour's Doctrine, but obeys it not; that is, he contents himself to be a professed Scholar of Christ, without sincerely endeavouring to live up to the Christian Doctrine and Precepts,- .", >
2. His Imprudence; he is like a foolish Man, which built his House upon the Sand.
3. His Unsuccessfulness; the Rain descended, and the Floods came, and the Winds blew, and beat upon his House; and it fell, and great was the Fall of it. ,
I. We are to consider the Description given here of a bad Christian; he is one that heareth our Saviour's DotJrine, but doth not reduce it into Practice. In which Description, there are two Things to be considered. 1. Something this bad Christian does, both to satisfy himself and others that he is a Christian; and this is described here by his hearing of Chris's Sayings. 2. Something in which he is deficient, and that is, he is but a bare Hearer, and not a Doer of Christ's Precepts.
1. The Title or Character of an Hearer of Christ's Sayings, signifies in general, a Disciple of Christ's, and comprehends all that belongs to the receiving Knowledge and Instruction in the Christian Doctrine. So that such Persons may have all the following good Qualities. (1.) They may have entred themselves Christ's Disciples, and have given up their Names to him, and be called Christians. (2;) They may have been baptized in his Name. (3.) They may be eminent Professors, and very zealous in owning the Christian Cause. (4.) They may be great Proficients in the Knowledge of the Doctrine of Christianity. (5.) They may be eminent Teachers, Defenders, and Asserters of this Doctrine to others. (6.) They may carefully observe all the external Rites and Ceremonies, and Sacraments
Z 3 of of the Christian Church. (7.) They may yield too a partial Obedience in many Things, especially such as are not inconsistent with their Lusts and carnal Interests. So far a mere Profession of Christianity will carry them. But now,
2. Let us consider wherein this bad Christian is deficient; namely, in his Obedience to our Saviour's Precepts: He heareth these Sayings of Cbriji, and doeth them not. But now, because it is certain the bare Professor of Christianity yields some sort of Obedience to our Saviour's Precepts, here lies the Difficulty, to open up this Mark of Obedience so clearly, that we may know how far it is a certain Mark of a good Christian, and how far the Neglect of it is the Character of a bad one; for as the Knowledge of this is necessary to the understanding of the Text, it will be likewise of excellent Use in a Christian Life, to guard us against all those other false Marks, from which we believe ourselves good Christians, when we are not; or bad Christians, when we are good.
There are three Marks of Obedience, by which we may know that it is of the right Stamp; namely, when it is sincere, universal, and constant. All which want some Explication to set them in a true Light.
(1.) I call that Obedience sincere, which is performed with a pure Eye to God, and which proceeds from a firm Belief of his Promises and Threatnings; for though, I doubt not, it is very lawful to take in the Consideration of other Motives to Obedience, such as are all the evil Consequences of Sin in this World, and all the good Consequences of Virtue; yet the main Wheel in
ail al! this Affair should be, the inward Love and Fear of God, and all the rest are to be admitted but as inferior Considerations; and whenever they sail, we are to proceed in our Obedience notwithstanding.
(2.) I call that Obedience universal, which doth not pick and choose to obey this, and to disobey that Commandment, but diligently labours to comply with every Duty; not but that the most sincere Christian is guilty of the Transgression of some Commandments more than others, and has much more struggling with his own evil Nature and vicious Habits, to live up to the Obedience of some Duties, more than others; but still the good Christian excepts no Duty out of his Care, indulges himself in noVice, so as to rest quietly in the Practice of it, but takes true Pains to overcome every Corruption, and to learn the Exercise and Habit of every Christian Virtue.
(3.) I call that Obedience constant, which is not taken up by Fits and Starts, but is an uniform Tenour of Life; not that all good Men are at all Times equally in the like good Temper, or that they never faulter in their Obedience, and are never overcome with Temptations; but that they do not fall away into a Course of Disobedience, but aim at and endeavour a steddy, and uniform, regular Course of Duty; and upon every Trip or Transgression, make haste to recover themselves by Repentance, and Amendment of Life.
From what has been said of the true Characters of Obedience, we may easily gather, what is to be meant by such as profess Christianity,
Z 4 but but add not Obedience to their Profession. But that ye may know them the better, I shall briefly distinguish them into several Sorts or Classes.
(1.) There are some, who, though they profess Christianity, are meer Scandals to their Profession, and make no Conscience of living according to it. Whether they go upon a stupid Inconsideration, as if Profession alone, without good Life, could answer the Obligations of their Religion ; or whether they have wrong Notions of Faith, separating it from good Works; or whether they depend upon a future Repentance and Amendment of Life, it is certain, that at present, they give up themselves to the Service of their Lusts, and make no Conscience, and are at no Pains, to live holy and good Lives; whatever it is these Men build their Hopes of Salvation upon, it is certain, it is a Bottom and Foundation which will utterly fail, and all their Hopes will certainly perish.
(2.) But passing by this profane and openly wicked Sort of Christians, there are others, who make a much better Appearance, and abstain from all gross Vice, and comply, at least outwardly, with all Duty; but all this they do, not ■ out of the Love and Fear of God, or any Regard to a future State, but purely from low carnal Ends, and the better to carry on their worldly Interests. But these People generally live in secret Wickedness, as having no Fe^r of God to restrain them, where their worldly Interest does pot oblige them to Duty. These are secret Hypocrites, and if they rife up to any Hopes of Happiness in a future State, it is an easy Thing tQ see how these their Hopes are built upon a,