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Matthew 12:33 - Homilies By W.f. Adeney

The tree and its fruit.

This illustration is applied by our Lord to the use of the tongue. Words are the fruits of the heart that prompts them. But they are the simplest and least considered forms of action, and they stand for the extreme representatives of a process that applies to all conduct. Let us consider the laws of life thus set forth in their widest range.

I. CONDUCT IS THE FRUIT OF LIFE .

1 . It is not possible without life. Growth in the tree is only produced when the sap is flowing and the cells are active. Animal activity depends on vitality; the dead animal is stiff and stark; lowered vitality results m torpor. Mental work springs from a living mind. Spiritual movements are only possible when there is spiritual life.

2 . It is determined by the character of the life. No manoeuvres can make a fig tree bring forth anything but figs. If the fruit is poor we cannot improve it by doctoring it. Here is a law of necessity. We are constantly finding in practice that our wills and energies and capacities are limited by our nature. Free-will is not enjoyed without many checks. Not only do our natures determine what we can accomplish; our habits very largely decide it.

II. LIFE MAY BE ESTIMATED BY CONDUCT . We judge of the tree by the fruit it bears, and we judge of the man by the conduct he displays.

1 . Other estimates are delusive.

2 . Conduct is a sure test. This is real. It requires energy, employs faculty, and produces a tangible result. Still, it needs to be fairly judged.

3 . Slight actions are tests of serious conditions of character. We shall be judged by our words. Even thoughtless, light words will be taken account of, because they too spring from the tone and temper of the mind. They are the straws that show which way the stream is flowing. Sometimes they are better tests than more important actions, because they are unpremeditated, and therefore true to our characters. We reveal ourselves when we are off our guard.

III. THE REFORMATION OF CONDUCT DEPENDS ON THE , REGENERATION OF LIFE . This practical conclusion necessarily follows on the principles which determine the growth of conduct. Manners may be improved by a superficial polish. But the really moral character of our actions cannot be transformed by any external process. Do what we will, the fruit must come according to the nature and character of the stock on which it grows. Therefore Christian work must be directed to the deep inner needs of the soul. This is not unpractical, as some assert. Lectures on ethics are not the best means of improving the morals of a people. Evangelical teaching is the source of moral improvement. We cannot imitate Christ until we have the life of Christ in our hearts.—W.F.A.

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