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wrong Foundation, and will fail them not only in the great Day of Accounts, before a Judge that is the Searcher of Hearts; but whenever they are to undergo any great Trial in this World, on account of their Religion.
(3.) There is a third Sort, who come much nearer to the Kingdom of Heaven, and yet miss of it, and they are such as believe the Christian Religion, and have a good Opinion of it in all its Parts, and do many Things to comply with the Precepts of it, yet live in the Practice of some beloved Sins, and voluntarily indulge themselves in that Practice; without earnest Endeavour, by the Use of the Means of Grace, to conquer and overcome them. I confess if this Remainder of sinful Practice were an involuntary Thing; if we were striving against it with our most sincere Endeavour, and for that End trying all the Means of Grace, and were only pulled back with the Violence of our Corruptions, it might be then interpreted in a more charitable Sense; but if it is indulged and acquiesced in, and no Endeavours, at least no vigorous Endeavours, used against it, it is like a neglected Leak, which endangers the sinking of the Ship. In this Sense we are to understand what St. "James faith, Chap, ii. 10. Whosoever Jhall hep the whole Law, and yet offend in one Point, he is guilty of all. This one Point, as appears by the Context, is one of the great Commandments; for it follows immediately; For he that said, Do not commit Adultery ; said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no Adultery, yet is thou kill, thou art become a transgressor os the Law. By which Doctrine it appears plainly, that the Indulging ourselves in the Practice of any known Sin, is inconsistent with a State of sincere Obedience.
So much for the Description both of Obedience and Disobedience, from which we may know whether we are good or bad Christians. The only Difficulty in Enquiries of this Nature is, when a very strong Corruption meeting with a weak Faith and feeble Repentance, and unconstant Resolutions, there is a long Struggle between the Flesh and the Spirit, and it is uncertain which of them shall at last prevail; and indeed it is hard to determine this Cafe, as long as the Person is thus almost equally influenced by two such opposite Principles. The only sure and comfortable Way of deciding this Controversy is, not to halt long between two Opinions, but to make haste out of this dangerous State, and by frequent and fervent Prayers, and doubling our Diligence in vigorous Endeavours to grow in Grace, and in every good Work, and to gain such an entire Victory to the Spirit over the Flesh, as may give us the Comfort that we are the Children of God, as walking not aster tbe Flesh, but after■ the Spirit.'
IL After the Description of the bad Christian, which is taken from his evil Practice; we come now to the second Thing contained in the Words; namely, his Imprudence, described here by the Similitude of a foolish Builder, He is like a fooli/h Man, says my Text, which built bis House upon the Sand. For understanding this Part of the Text, it will be necessary^
1. To discover something of the Nature of these sandy Foundations, upon which Men build their Hopes of Heaven.
2. The Folly of trusting to them.
1. As to the sandy Foundations, our Saviour has given us here a general Character of them; namely, that they are all such Doctrines, upon which we build up our Hope of Heaven, without being at the Pains to practise Christian Duties. This General will include a great many Particulars under it, which it would not be improper to insist upon, if I had not already mentioned most of them from some of the foregoing Texts, as when I guarded you against the pernicious Doctrines of false Prophets; and when I discovered to you the false Hopes of them, who are brought in pleading their Faith and high Profession, and their preaching and working Miracles in Christ's Name, who yet will be disowned in the great Day of Accounts as Workers of Iniquity. And therefore all I shall now do, shall be to caution you in general against this Stratagem of Satan's, which he has very dexteroufly managed under a great many various Forms and Shapes; which is, to take Men off from that main, most necessary Part of Religion, Obedience to the Precepts of the Gospel; in which Design he finds a treacherous Partner in our own Hearts, which are glad to strike in with any thing that will excuse us from the Difficulties of Christian Obedience to those Precepts of Perfection which our Saviour has given us. O how welcome are all those Doctrines which either directly, or in their Consequences, tend to persuade us, that we may be happy hereafter, without
being being at the Pains and Trouble of living well here. This has introduced strange Opinions and Practices into the Christian Church. This has disposed some Men to believe, that we shall be adjudged to eternal Happiness and Misery, rather by some hidden Decrees of God, than by the Rules of his revealed Will, though most expressly contrary to holy Scripture. This has made the Doctrine of the Antinomian, and Solifidian, and Fiduciary, which places Mens Hopes in believing, without doing and obeying, find Place in the World. This has made Men lay so great Stress on orthodox Opinions, though their Lives are no better than those of the rankest Hereticks: This has made us take every flight Sorrow for Sin, though never forsaken, for the true Repentance required in the Gospel ; and imperfect Resolutions of Obedience, for Obedience itself. This has made a Death-bed Repentance to be so much depended on, and the Example of the Thief on the Cross, who, in all Probability, had no Opportunity before, of being acquainted with Christ, or his Doctrine, so confidently applied to them, who have all their Lise long been acquainted with the Doctrine of the Gospel, and have utterly neglected the Practice of it. This has made such a Dependance on the Church, or Society and Party to which we addict ourselves, when we take little or no Care to live up to the Rules established by all Churches. It is sufficient to guard us against these and all sandy Foundations of that Nature, that our Saviour has at once condemned all such Doctrines, as build any Hope of Salvation upon any thing less than a conscientious Practice of our Saviour's Doctrine,
2. But having shewed you the Nature of these sandy Foundations, in the next Place we are to enquire into the Folly of trusting to them. Our Saviour, in my Text, compares the Christian who hears these his Sayings, and doth them not, to a foolish Man, who built his House upon the Sand. The Folly of this Action appears in divers Things, in which the Similitude will likewise very patly answer. 1. Here was an Error in the Foundation, which is more dangerous than an Error in the Superstructure. 2. Here was a fatal Inconsideration, to build an House only for the calm sair Weather, which happened to be at the Time of laying the Foundation of it, without taking a View of those Storms, aud Tempests, and LandFloods, which afterwards might assault it. 3. In Consequence of this Inconsideration, here was a most egregious Piece of Folly, in laying out a Man's Money, and Trouble, and Pains, all to no manner of Purpose. Now answerable to these three Branches of Folly in building, the Folly of venturing our Salvation, without vigorous Endeavours after Obedience, may appear in these three Things.
1. The Error of placing our Hopes of Salvation on any Thing without Obedience to the Precepts of Christ, is a fundamental Error, and is never to be retrieved by any other Arts and Inventions. The World indeed has offered at a great many Inventions to make up this Defect; but nothing could ever do. The Jews and Gentiles both were very profuse in the Costliness of their Sacrifices, which when separate from good Life, God by his Prophets often told them hovv;