I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer.
I. ITS NATURE.
1. An actual joining of each branch to the vine. When Madame Guyon was ten years old, she learned that Madame de Chantal had written the characters of the holy name of Jesus upon her bosom with a red-hot iron. She sought to imitate, so she sewed on her breast a piece of stiff paper containing the name of Christ. Never has there been good in such folly. Union to the Saviour does not consist in tacking on a badge of mere profession of love for Him. You might as well nail a branch to a trellis, and call that grafting.
2. A living joining of each branch to this Vine. We have often seen flowers bound to sticks with a bit of wire, so that they seemed growing on long stems; but there was no life in the merely mechanical contact.
3. The reciprocal joining of every branch to the vine, and of the vine to every branch.
II. ITS PURPOSES. That it may produce after its kind for the enrichment of the husbandman the fruits he loves. These fruits are —
1. Good views. It never profits anyone to sneer at creeds, and cry out for deeds instead; for no good deed was ever done unless there was a good thought behind it. The shallowness of much of our modern piety is owing to want of real conviction. Our religion has always been "a faith," and so has had an intellectual basis.
2. Good deeds. For all genuine ideas force themselves out into conduct. Mere admiration for the character, or mystic affection for the person, of a Saviour like ours would not be enough. A pretty little honeysuckle in the garden might as well twine itself up around a trellis, and try for a whole season to look like a vine; grape time would show the sham.
3. Good feelings. Some people doubt the power of a religious duty to start the enthusiasm of a large soul. And yet many of the finest minds and purest hearts have drawn their inspirations from the spiritual intercourse they kept with the life and the words of Jesus. While Claudius Buchanan was missionary in India, he translated and issued the Syriac Testament. Macaulay says that once in his presence he stopped and suddenly burst into tears. When he recovered himself the great man said, "Do not be alarmed, I am not ill; but I was completely overcome with the recollections of the delight I have enjoyed in this exercise." It is thus that good Christians have often gone to the stake for the love they bore for this Redeemer of men.
4. Good graces. Vines feel no shame for being beautiful. Excellencies of character are what the Lord loves (Galatians 5:22, 23).
III. CHRIST'S CARE FOR IT. The Husbandman is God the Father. He cleanses the vines. In the East dressers wash the leaves and shoots and tendrils and clusters, each by itself in turn, so as to clear off the dust and mould. They cut away, also, the dead branches, and keep the whole vine under discipline.
1. The branch may be too feeble in its growth. Then, of course, it must be made to draw more strength from the vine which supports it. In the union of Christ to each soul these quickenings are efficaciously wrought by the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The believer seeks them by prayer, and openly welcomes them with thanksgiving and trust. A female teacher in Persia was seated on a mat in the middle of the earthen floor of the church greatly fatigued, and as she was endeavouring to catch a moment's rest, one of the native women seated herself directly behind on the same mat. In a quiet whisper she begged her to lean back. The missionary just suffered her weight to fall against her knee; but the generous Christian drew her nearer and then whispered again, "If you love me, lean hard." Never was a truer imitation of Christ. Those who are weal: show more love by leaning harder.
2. The branch may be too perverse in its growth. Sometimes it appears as if it had become wilful. It thrusts its rings and tendrils off as if a petulant rebelliousness against the trellis had awakened its spite, and it had determined to grow out of order. It will lay hold of twigs below it in the grass, and trees above it in the orchard, always endeavouring to defeat the husbandman's purpose. For this there is no remedy but one: the knife comes suddenly, and now remains only the fire.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.