But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
A hard thing it is, to bring an overweening hypocrite to a true understanding of himself; for pride and hypocrisy are two such things as few men are willing to own. That they might therefore with better certainty be able to discern whether they were indeed spiritual, or but yet carnal, the apostle proceedeth to describe the flesh and the Spirit by their different effects. The thing we are to take notice of now is the differences that may be observed between the titles under which St. Paul hath entered the several particulars of both sorts. "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: adultery," etc., the other in the beginning of verse 22: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love," etc.
1. The first difference, which ariseth from the nature of things themselves, as they relate to their several proper causes, is of the four the most obvious and important: and it is this: that whereas the vicious habits and sinful actions catalogued in the former verses are the production of the flesh, the graces and virtues specified in the text are ascribed to' the Spirit, as to their proper and original cause. They are not the works of the flesh, as the former, but the fruit of the Spirit. First, clear it is, that all the wicked practices recited and condemned in the foregoing verses, with all ether of like quality, do proceed merely from the corruption that is in us, from our own depraved minds and wills, without any the least co-operation of the Holy Spirit of God therein. It cannot stand with the goodness of God to be the principal; and neither with His goodness nor greatness to be an accessory, in any sinful action. He cannot be either the author or the abettor of anything that is evil. Secondly, it is clear also that all the holy affections and performances here mentioned, with all other Christian virtues and graces accompanying salvation, not here mentioned, though performed immediately by us, and with the free consent of cur own wills, are yet the fruit of God's Spirit working in us. All those very many passages in the New Testament, which either set forth the unframeableness of our nature to the doing of anything that is good — "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think a good thought"; "In me, that is in my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing," and the like: or else ascribe our best performances to the glory of the grace of God — "Without me you can do nothing"; "All our sufficiency is of God"; "Not of yourselves, it is the gift of God"; "It is God that worketh in you both the will and the deed," and the like, are so many clear confirmations of the truth.
(1) The necessity of our prayers. It is true, our endeavours are necessary: God that doth our work for us, will not do it without us.
(2) A duty of thankfulness. If by His good blessing upon our prayers and endeavours we have been enabled to bring forth any fruit, such as He will graciously accept; take we heed we do not withdraw the least part of the glory of it from Him, to derive it upon ourselves, or our own endeavours. Enough it is for us, that we have the comfort onward, and shall have an unmeasurable reward at the last, for the good we have done (either of both which is infinitely more than we deserve); but far be it from us to claim any share in the glory: let all that be to Him alone.
2. The evil effects proceeding from the flesh are called by the name of "works"; and the good effects proceeding from the Spirit are called by the name of "fruits." The query is, why, being both effects alike, they are not either both alike called works, or both alike called fruits; but the one works, the other fruit — the works of the flesh there, here, the fruit of the Spirit? For answer whereunto, I shall propose to your choice two conjectures. The one more theological, or rather metaphysical, which is almost as new to me as perhaps it will seem to you (for it came not into my thoughts till I was upon it); the other more moral and popular. For the former, take it thus. Where the immediate agent produceth a work or effect, virtute propria, by his own power, and not in the virtue of a superior agent, both the work itself produced, and the efficacy of the operation whereby it is produced, are to be ascribed to him alone; so as it may be said properly and precisely to be his work. But where the immediate agent operateth virtute aliena, in the strength and virtue of some higher agent, without which he were not able to produce the effect, though the work done may even there also be attributed in some sort to the inferior and subordinate agent, as the immediate cause, yet the efficacy whereby it was wrought cannot be so properly imputed to him, but ought rather to be ascribed to that higher agent in whose virtue he did operate. If this seem but a subtlety and satisfy not, let it go; the other, I presume, will, seeing it is so plain and popular. The word "fruit" mostly relates to some labour going before. The reason is, because no man would willingly undergo any toil or labour to no end; he would have something or other in his eye that might in some measure recompence his pains; and that is called "the fruit of his labour." Where the flesh ruleth all, the work exceedeth the fruit; and therefore, without ever mentioning the fruit, they are called "the works of the flesh." But where the Spirit of God ruleth, the fruit exceedeth the work; and therefore, without ever mentioning the work, it is called "the fruit of the Spirit."
3. The works of the flesh are spoken of as many, "works," in the plural: but the fruit of the Spirit is spoken of as one, "fruit," in the singular. Many works, but one fruit. There is such a connection of virtues and graces, that albeit they differ in their objects and natures, yet they are inseparable in the subject. As when many links make up one chain, pull one, and pull all: so he that hath any one spiritual grace in any degree of truth and eminency, cannot be utterly destitute of any other. But as for sins and vices, it is not so with them: they are not only distinct in their hinds, natures, and definitions (for so are virtues too), but they may also be divided from one another, and parted asunder in respect of the subject wherein they are. we are told (and if we were not told it, we could not but see reason enough in these times to believe it) that a man may hate idolatry, a work of the flesh; and yet love sacrilege well enough, a work of the flesh too. There is no necessity that a swearer should be an adulterer, or an adulterer a slanderer, or a slanderer an oppressor, or an oppressor a drunkard, or a drunkard a seditious person; and so of many other. The reason of the difference is, because all spiritual graces look one way: they all run to the same indivisible point, wherein they concentre; to wit, almighty God, who is unchangeable and one: even as all moral virtues concentre in the same common point of right reason. But sins, which turn from God to follow the creature; and vices, which are so many deviations from the rule of right reason, do not all necessarily run towards the same point, but may have their several tendencies different one from another. Because though God be one, yet the creatures are manifold; and although the straight way from one place to another can be but one, yet there may be many crooked turnings, by-paths, and deviations. Even as truth is but one and certain, but errors are manifold and endless.
4. The last difference is, that the works of the flesh are expressly said "to be manifest"; but no such thing is affirmed of the fruit of the Spirit. The most probable reasons of which difference are, to my seeming, one of these two following.
(1) The commonness and frequency of those above these everywhere abroad in the world. The works of the flesh, "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, wantonness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatreds, emulation, debate, wrath, strifes, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, gluttony, drunkenness, and such like" (I name them, because the bare recital of them will save me the labour of further proof), do so abound in all places, that you can scarce look beside them. Turn your eyes which way you will, ye shall see cursed examples of some or other of these every day, and in every street, and every corner. Alas, the works of the flesh are but too "manifest!" But the fruits of the Spirit are not so. "Love, peace, gentleness, faith, meekness, temperance," and the rest — these are very thin grown in the world; they are rarities not everywhere to be met withal. Hips and haws grow in every hedge, when choicer fruits are but in some few gardens; and every soil almost yields stones and rubbish, but gold and precious stones are found in very few places.
(2) The works of the flesh may be said to be manifest, and the fruits of the Spirit not so, with respect to our judgments of them, and the easiness of discerning the one sort more than the other.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,