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Third and last; observation, viz. That the practice of religion, and the doing of what we' know to be our duty, is the only way to happiness; if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them; not if ye know these things happy are ye; but if ye know and do them. Now to convince men of so important a truth, 1 shall endeavour to make out these two things:
First, That the gospel makes the practice of religion a necessary condition of our happiness.
Secondly, That the nature and reason of the thingmakes it a necessary qualification for it.
First, The gospel makes the practice of religion a necessary condition of our happiness. Our Saviour in his first sermon, where he repeats the promise of blessedness so often, makes no promise of it to the mere knowledge of religion, but to the habit and practice of Christian graces and virtues, of meekness, and humility, and mercifulness, and righteousness, and peaceablenessj and purity, and patience under sufferings and persecutions for righteousness fake. And Matth. vii. 21. our Saviour dotn most fully declare, that the happiness which he promises, did not belong to those who made profession of his name, and were so well acquainted with his doctrine, as to be able to instruct others, if themselves in the mean time did not practise iti-No* every one that, faith unto me, Lori, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my. Father which is in heaven; Many will fay untome in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils,and done many wondrous works T and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you : Depart from me ye workers of iniquity. Though they profess to know him, yet because their lives were not answerable to the knowledge which they had of him, and his doctrine, he declares that he will not know them, but bids them depart from him. And then he goes ort to shew, that though a man attend to the doctrine: of Christ, and gain the knowledge of it i yet if it do not descend into his life, and govern his actions, all that man's hopes of heaven are fond and groundless; and only that man's hopes of heaven are well grounded, who knows the doctrine of Christ, and does it, ver. 24. Whosoever htaretb these sayings if mine, and doth them, I will liken him to a -wife man who built his house upon a rock, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it sell not, for it -wassounded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doth them not, shall be likened ts a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand, and the rain descended, and the floods came, and tbt winds blew, and beat upon that house, and it sell, and great was the fall of it. Though a man had a knowledge of religion, as great and perfect as that which Solomon had of natural things, large as the sand upon the seashore, yet all this knowledge separated from practice would be like the sand also in another respect, a weak foundation for any man to build his hopes of happiness upon.
To the fame purpose St. Paul speaks, Rom. ii» 13. Not the hearers of the law art just before God; but the doers of the law shall be justified. So likewise St. James, chap. i. 22. Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves; and wer. 2?. Whoso looketh into theperfefl law os liberty, (that is, the law or doctrine of the gospel) and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed; and therefore he adds, that the truth and reality of religion is to be measured by the effects of it, in the government of our words, and ordering of our lives, ver. 26. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father it this, to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. Men talk of religion, and keep a great stirabout it; but nothing will pass for trite religion before God, but the virtuous and. charitable- actions of
a> a good life; and God will accept no man to eternal life upon any other condition. So the Apostle tells us most exprefly, Heb. xii. 14. Follow peace -with all men, and holiness, without which no man fliall see the Lord.
Secondly, As God hath made the practice of religion a necessary condition of our happiness, so the very nature and reason of the thing makes it a neceflary qualification for it. It is necessary that we become like to God, in order to the enjoyment of him; and nothing makes us like to God, but the practice of holiness and goodness. Knowledge irideed is a divine perfection; but that alone, as it doth not render a man like God, so neither doth it dispose him for the enjoyment of him. If a man had the understanding of an Angel, he might for all that be a devil; he that committeth fin is of the devil; and whatever knowledge such a man may have, he is of a devilish temper and disposition: bat every one that doth righteoujness is born of God. By this we are like God, and only by our likeness to him, do we 'become capable of the sight and enjoyment of him; therefore every man'that hopes to be happy by the -Hessed sight of God in the next life, must endeavour after holiness in this life. So the fame Apostle tells us, 1 John iii. 3. Every man that hath this hope inhim,purifieth himself, even as he is pure. A wicked temper and disposition of mind is in the very nature of the thing, utterly inconsistent with all reasonable hopes of heaven.
Thus I have shewn that the practice of religion, and the doing of what we know to be our duty, is the only way to happiness.
'And now the proper inference from all this is, to put men upon the careful practice of religion. Let no man content himself with the knowledge of his duty, unless he doit; and to this purpose I shall briefly urge these three considerations:
First, This is the great end of all our knowledge in religion, to practise what we know. The knowledge of God and of our duty hath so essential a respect to practice, that the scripture will hardly allow