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S E R M ON
ON THE NECESSITY OF GOOD WORKS,
ECCLESIASTICUS XXVII. 6.
The fruit declareth if the tree have been
THE conclusion of the verse is, “ so is SERM. " the utterance of a conceit in the heart of a “ man;" which, whether it is rightly rendered, or we have the original correct or not, admits surely, as it stands, of a very reasonable interpretation, and may pass as a just illustration of the foregoing figure. As the fruit declareth the condition of the tree, so conversation commonly discovers the intentions and disposition of the heart of man*. But the comparison may with great propriety be extended to every part of a man's conduct. All our actions flow
* Compare Matt. xii. 34, 35, Luke vi. 45.
SERM. from principles within us, as the fruit has Xur. its flavor from the juices of the tree. Our
blessed Lord adopts the same figure ; (Matt. vii. 15, &c. Matt. xii. 33,) though it may be doubtful how he meant exactly to apply it, in the case of the false prophets to whom he alludes in the first passage. Generally speaking, however, it is a beautiful and apt comparison, as applied to the outward actions of man, and as it stands, in the words of my text, may reasonably be submitted to your more particular consideration. We read in Scripture of the fruits of the Spirit, and we have them distinctly enumerated by St. Paul : they are, love, joy, peace, long suffering,
gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, tem
perance*;" or else summed up more concisely by the same Apostle in another place,
the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth of."
That is, (if there is any sense at all in these expressions) such are the virtues naturally springing from a well-disciplined heart,
* Galatians, v. 22, 23.
+ Eccles. v. 9.
co-operating with the influence of God's SERM. holy Spirit. Without entering at present too far into the controversy about faith and works, rendered intricate without necessity through mens' perverse prejudices; surely it must be admitted that the holy Apostle St. Paul, when he speaks of the different fruits, of the flesh and the Spirit, in his several writings, meant to make some great distinction between good and bad men, whether they were nominally Christians or not. In writing, generally, to the Galatian converts, who had been already baptised into the faith, he would have wasted his time greatly in dwelling so much on the several virtues and vices he there enumerates, had the Christian convert stood in any situation which should render him indifferent to the distinction between good and evil. And the whole controversy, about the final efficacy of works, might, I should think, be laid to rest, if we could once be brought to agree that in some way or other they are essential to the character of a true Christian. In the same chapter where St. Paul enu
SERN. merates the fruits of the Spirit, he also XI. reckons up the several corrupt fruits of
the flesh, and he subjoins the consequences of indulging in them ; " they which do such
things shall not inberit the kingdom of “* God.” If this does not directly imply that they which do not do such things, shall inherit the kingdom of God, it does, at least, most expressly imply, that they which do not do such things, stand a much better chance of inheriting God's kingdom. And whence can this better chance arise, but that the mere abstaining from such foul iniquities has some meritorious effect or other? But the opposition is not merely between those who do such works of unrighteousness, and those who do them not, but between the workers of iniquity and those who sedulously cultivate the fruits of the Spirit; merely to abstain from wickedness would seem to afford something of a better chance, but to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit is put in direct opposition to the fulfilling the lusts of the flesh; and, therefore, as the latter is expressly said to operate to our exclusion from the