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SERMON LI.

RELIGIOUS CONVERSATION.

By the Rev. EDWARD CRAIG, M. A.
Minister of St. James' Chapel, Edinburgh.

MATTHEW, xii. 31.
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh.

The particular use to which the Saviour applies this remark, is as a criterion of sincere religion. Ile was reproving the uncharitable surmises of the Pharisees; and he brought the matter at once to this simplc test. As a man is, so will he speak. The tenor of conversation determines the character; for he says, “ Either make the tree good and its fruit good; or else make the trce corrupt and its fruit corrupt; for a tree is known by its fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye being evil speak good things. For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh. A

A good man out of the good trcasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth evil things."

It is not, however, my intention to enter upon the examination of the text as a test of a character, as a means of discriminating between the evil and the good. I merely wish to present it before you as it affects one side of the question, and to lead you to consider from it, the rule which it suggests for the conversation of those who are really Christian. Out of the abundant treasure of his heart, the mouth of the good man speaketh good things:Here is an exbibition to us of the natural habit of the truly good man, in his intercourse with his fellow-men; and it presents to us some interesting points of inquiry. There is the subject that engages his heart: The abundance with which bis heart is filled; and, The result of this on his conversation. “Out of the abun

66 dance of the hcart, the mouth speaketh.” A consideration of these several topics may, by the blessing of God, have a very important influence upon our own conduct and character. May the Spirit of the Lord, the giver of all good things, with whom is the preparation of the heart, and the answer of the tongue, impart through the instrumentality of the word, some lasting benefit to our souls.

Notice, then, First, The subject which should occupy the Christian. It is the aboundings of grace. 66 Where sin hath abounded, there grace did much more abound.” It is the work of God's unspeakable compassion in the redemption of lost souls, that should occupy the attention; for all things else are infinitely below this. Nothing else can be compared with it. If the grace of God in the Gospel be truc, and it cannot be fairly questioned, then every fair mind must allow that there is nothing so worthy of our best attention.

There is an inconceivable richness in this scheme of redemption, which demands our admiration :-Salvation for the lost, life for the dead, holiness for the polluted, and eternal life for the condemned and perishing soul: “ that as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace rcign through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And the more wc direct our attention to the grace of God, the more we ascertain of its abundance.

llow full is the acquittal of the guilty condemned sinner! We were enemies to God, ungodly and helpless; and death reigned over us; and judgment was pronounced against us to condemnation; and our own conscience tells us we have deserved it. And yet “ by the rightcousness of onc,” even our crucified Lord and Master, the “free gist comes upon us to justification of life," and we are reconciled to God by the precious blood of his own dear Son. To such creatures, so miserably lost, what could be dearer tban a full, frce, and irreversible pardon! But surely the blessing is enhanced when it flows to us through the bleeding heart of the Giver; and when that which is life to us is death to him; when the curse and the punishment of the Son of God are our complete acquittal. He was “ made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."

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Ilow abundant, also, is the provision for our deliverance from the power of sin. All the difficulty with which we have to contend is provided for; and we have only to come to the means of grace, and spiritual life, habitual holiness and purity, and all the graces of the Chri-tian character, and the peculiar mercy of Christian steadiness and consistency, are really given to those who scck sincerely for such blessings. God imparts in the appointed mcans of grace the influence of his Holy Spirit, and that influcncc subdues sin, and generates every holy disposition, desire, and habit. There is the promise, and an ample one it is, “ From all your filthiness and from all your idols will I cleanse you, a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. And I will take away from you the heart of stone, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” And again, “ I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a pcople.”

And the way of obtaining the promisc is as distinctly marked out also. It is simply " looking unto Jesus;" }ooking by faith to this gracious Saviour, as St. Paul says in 2d Corinthians, chapter iii. “We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” If we look into the glass of God's word, and see his glory in Christ Jesus,--the contemplation of that glory shall work a holy change in us, and conform us to the image of God's holy and blessed Son.

How abundant, also, is the grace of God towards his people in their experience, in the history of their every day! How kindly and compassionately he deals with Ilis children. “ As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear bim; for He knowcth their frame, he remembereth that we are dusl.”— The dealings of God with Isracl well represent his care of his believing people. “He found him in a desert land, and in the waste bowling wilderness. llc led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye; as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them and beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead them.” This is precisely the believer's experience of the gracious teaching and special providence of God. llow many are the proofs which the holiest Christian gives of weakness and waywardness, of the original carnality of his heart:-proofs that even yet, if he were left alone, he would return again to

the evil from which he has been taken, and to the entanglcments from which he has been delivered! And how abundant has becn the grace, that silently, sccrctly, kindly, but cffectually has instructed, corrected, reclaimed, sanctified and hastened forward again, the careless, listless, and declining soul! Well may the bclicver say, surely "goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.” “ The Lord God is a sun and shield, he

. will give grace and glory.” “Ile forgiveth all mine iniquitics, he hcaleth all my discases, he crowneth me with loviny-kindness and tender mercies, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's.The testimony of every day may well be in these respects, that 6* where sin hath abounded, grace did much more abound.”

And then, lastly, on this point, consider the fullness of the promises. It were not casy to obtain a collected concentrated view of the abundant promises of God, to those whom he has chosen; but surely it is impossible for those whose attention has been occupied with them, not to feel in some degree, how splendid they are.

Think what everlasting life and blessedness in the presence of God must be. It surpasses in every point our present conceptions. We may make some faint effort towards it, by imagining the absence of all that now annoys us, and the increase of all that is legitimately pleasing. We may combine the glitter of gold and precious gems, and the fragrance and refreshment of the cooling fruit, the green pasture, and the living fountain; but it is all poor and ineagre. We shall feel that the bare idea of eternal felicity surpasses not only the experience of the cye and the car, but the richest and most flucnt suggestions and combinations of the most powerful imagination. We still feel that the joys which God has promised are “ unspeakable;" and that like

; the love in which they originated, they are in their height, and depth, and length, and breadth, beyond comprehension. This however, we know, beyond all controversy, that it will be among the chief joys of the redeemed, to be completely conformed to the image of the sinless Jesus--to be like him, “ holy as he is holy," and "pure as he is pure.”

Suchi, then, are the aboundings of Divine grace to the guilty rebels of this apostate world; pardon, peace, holiness, protection, and the immutable promise of eternal lifc. All these abundant blessings are opened to us, and freely offered to us in the Gospel of Christ.

VOL. II.-79

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Consider, Secondly, What ought to be the feeling of the Christian's heart in this respect. It should be filled and abounding with these things. The Saviour spcaks in the text of "the abundance of the heart."

It ill becomes the recipient of so many blessings, to give to the consideration of them a cold, scanty, formal, and merely slavish application of the mind. This may consist with false views of religion; but one cannot conceive this to be the case, where there is a right appreciation of the fullness of Divine mercy. If you have discovered the guilt and danger of your natural state, and learned any thing of the freeness of God's mercy through Christ; if

you have realized in any degree, the spiritual blessings wbich we have been cnumerating; you must have found your attention and your affections drawn towards the subject, so as to make it a delightful one. This is the constitution of our nature. Look at the man of the world, who has his favorite object in pursuit, bc it what it may; great as any finite object can be, or small and trifling in itself, but swelled into importance by his desire for it. See in either case with what an eager rash bis animal spirits go

forth towards it, to sustain him in the difficulties, the risks, and the occasional disappointments incidental to his pursuit. Though at the best it be but an earthly thing, a transitory indulgence, or a contcmptible crown; yct bis heart is full of it. Not that it will always be so; for in the very nature of things he is sure to be disappointed in the end: for while he thinks he is gathering fruit, he is, in fact, feeding on ashes. He is sowing the wind, and he must reap the whirlwind. In the mean time, however, we see an instance of the present ardor and exclusive devotion of the mind to the object that it really desires—the overflowing abundance of the heart respecting it. We ce clearly, that where the treasure is, there will the heart be also."

Now, if I believe in my deliverance from eternal suffering, through the voluntary suffering of a crucified Saviour; and if the promise of eternal glory is before me; and is every day gives me proof of the present care and kindness of this everlasting Friend; then surely, as the object is greater and more worthy, the abounding of the heart towards this deliverance, ought to be at least equally great. If we are in a right state, this great and glorious salvation ought to be the supreme subject of interest. The loveliest object, and the brightest lot on carth, are fading and

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