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1 Tim. iv. 12, and to take heed to himself and his Doctrine, 1 Tim. iv. 16. Here then, if we would know who shall be accounted great in the Christian Church, by him who is the truest Judge of Honour, our Lord himself, in the Great Day of Accounts; it is not the greatest Doctors and deepest Scholars ; it is not the Learnedest Criticks and the Subtileft Disputants; it is not they who have been advanced to the first Chairs, and the highest Preferments in this World; but in the first Place they who live good Lives themselves, and then they who take a great deal of Pains to make others good too. It is the Doing and Teaching the Commandments which will entitle a Man to this Encomium, with all the other consequent Rewards, of being Called or Adjudged Great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
So much I thought proper to observe in general from the Words. But now that we may entitle our felves to this high and valuable Dignity, it will be necessary that we understand inore diftinctly what is meant by Doing and Teaching the Commandments. For neither is it all Sort of Doing that will serve turn; nor is it only those who are called Pastors or Teachers, who are capable of this Dignity of Teaching, but all Men in their several Stations may have Access to it, if they industriously employ their Talents for doing good.
To begin then with the Doing the Commandments; there are these two Things I shall endeavour to account for : 1. To give a Description of that holy Practice, which is requisite to qualify us for this high Dignity. 2. To consider why we must begin with holy Practice our selves, in order to the Teaching others their Duty.
I. First then, It is not all Sort of Doing the Commandments, that deserves that Name, or will entitle us to this high Dignity, of being called Great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For some afford á bare formal Outside Obedience ; secretly indulging themselves in lewd and wicked Practices. Some are zealous in some Duties, that are suitable to, at least do not much thwart their natural Genius and Temper; but quite negligent as to other Duties, which require any Thing of Mortification or Self-denial. Some are careful at some particular Solemn Times; the Time of a Sacrament, the Day of Affliction, or the Approach of God's Judgments; but at other Times give themselves a Loose into whatever Sorts of Immorality they are inclined to. Now we cannot imagine that this is the Holy Practice here meant or described. It concerns us then to enquire a little more exactly into the Nature of that Christian Obedience,' or good Life, to which our Saviour makes this
great Promise in my Text. I shall briefly give you some of the chief Scripture Marks of it, by observing of which ye will be in no Danger of miftaking in a Matter of so great Consequence.
(1) First then, It is carefully to be remembred, what Sort of Commandments our Saviour is here speaking of, namely, the Precepts of the Moral Law, as I have in some former Discourses Thewed from the Context. This, I say, is to be carefully Observed, because as there were in those Days a great many who neglecting the Moral and Subftantial, spent all their Zeal in the Ritual Duties of Religion, whom our Saviour, as well as the Prophets, every where reprehends and endeavours to correct; so there are in our Days a great many
Pretenders to Religion, who place their Zeal in any Thing rather than in this, that our Saviour is here driving at, the Study of Christian Morals. Some spend their Zeal about Orthodoxy of Opinions, and in diving into the more Abstruse and Mysterious Parts of the Christian Faith; others contend earnestly for the Ceremonials, and Ritual Part of Religion; but let us take Care to reserve our greatest Care and Industry for the Christian Morals, remembring that Obedience is better than Sacrifice, 1 Sam. xv. 22. and that in the great Day of Accounts, Holy Lives will be more enquired into, than Orthodox Opinions ; and that Judgment, Mercy, and Fidelity, will be preferred to the tithing of Mint, Anise,and Cummin,Matt. xxiii. 23. Our inward Lufts and Corruptions are the chief Enemies we have to struggle with ; our natural and acquired evil Habits; which we are continually to endeavour, with our utmost Care and Diligence, to reduce to the exact Rule of God's holy Laws, perfecting Holiness in his Fear.
(2) As we are to direct our Care to the right Object, so, as to the Manner of it, we must see that it be such as will please God, and not such as is governed only by By-respects and worldly Confiderations. If our Obedience is of the right Stamp, we must set God before our Eyes, and endeavour to approve ourselves to him from an inward Principle of his Love and Fear, without Regard to the Fashionableness or Unfashionableness, of the Profitableness or Unprofitableness of the Duties on other worldly Accounts. I speak thus, because, of that little Duty which is performed in the World, there is a great deal owing to wrong Principles, such as Pride and Vanity, Covetousness
and Ambition, Fear of Men, Strength of Party, Popular Applause, Fashion, Custom, and Emulation, and a thousand other By-respects, which, though they cannot be always discovered by Men, are well known to Almighty God, and will never be able to impose upon him, who understands all the various Meanders of our Hearts infinitely better than we do ourselves, and will set no Value on any Duty that doth not proceed from his true Love and Fear. (3) If our Obedience is of the right
Stamp, such as may hope for this Approbation of our Saviour in the Great Day of Accounts, it must not be a Partial, but an Universal Obedience. That is, we must not pick and choose such Duties as are most agreeable to our Humour and Temper and worldly Interests, with the Neglect of others that require more of Self-denial to comply with them but we must study to pay an undistinguished Respect to all God's Laws. Not but that where Nature is most frail, there it is to be feared, after all our Care, we shall be in the greatest Danger of most frequent Lapses. But we must have a great Care that we indulge not ourselves in a voluntary Neglect of any Part of our Duty, because of it's Difficulty or Inconsistency with our Inclination to Profit or Pleasure; on the contrary, where the Difficulty is greatest, we ought to meet it with double Diligence, and according to our Saviour's Advice to his Disciples in the like case, to watch and pray, that we enter not into Temptation, for that very Reason, because though the Spirit be willing, the Flesh is weak, Mark xiv. 38.
(4) It is further requisite concerning our Obedience, which our Saviour here requires in order
to his Approbation in the great Day, that it be not temporary, by Fits and Starts, or upon some particular Occafions, but constant and uniform ; as he doth not deserve the Name of a Workman who works one Day and plays three ; so he will by no means deserve the honourable Compellation of a Doer of God's Commandments, who while for Ordinary he is a Werker of Iniquity; makes a few Interruptions on solemn Occasions, and seemingly resolves to be a new Man, but presently returns with the Dog to the Vomit, and with the Sow that was washed, to the wallowing in the Mire again, Prov. xxvi. 11. Tho' it is not to be expected of the very best of our Obedience here upon Earth, but that it will be liable to Errors and Lapses, and many daily Infirmities, which will require the constant Use and Exercise of Repentance; yet we must keep our felves to the constant Practice of Duty, and make Obedience to the Laws of God our Ordinary and continual Employment. This we should look upon as our great and main Business; the one Thing needful; berein with St Paul we should exercise our Jelves to have always Consciences void of Offence, both towards God, and towards Men, Acts xxiv. 16.
(5) I shall add but one Qualification more of our Obedience, to make it of the right Stamp, and that is, that it be hearty, chearful and diligent. This is what the Apostle calls, running the race that is set before us, Heb. xii. 1. and the Pfalmift, running the Way of God's Commandments. As running is not a flow, heavy, heartless Gate, but it implies the exerting our selves with Diligence and Alacrity; so the Respect we ought to have for such an excellent Master, and Vol. II.