John 15:2


If these words were spoken in the house, they may have been suggested by a creeping, Clinging vine trained against the wall; if upon the footpath, by the vineyards on the slope of Olivet; if in the temple, by the golden vine wrought upon the gates.

I. THE VINE IN ITSELF IS A SUITABLE EMBLEM OF CHRIST. Its beauty, as planted, trained, or trellised; its grateful shade; its fruit, whether fresh and luscious or dried; its wine," that maketh glad the heart of man;" -all render it not only interesting, but suitable to set forth in symbol the excellence of the Redeemer, his nobility, beauty, preciousness, and use to man. Palestine was a land of vineyards: witness the grapes of Eshcol; Judah binding his foal to the vine, etc. Hence most naturally the vine was used in Old Testament Scripture as an emblem of the chosen nation, and hence Jesus in his parables put the noble plant to the same use. No wonder that our Lord applied to himself and to his people a designation so instructive.

II. THE VINE IS AN EMBLEM OF CHRIST, ESPECIALLY AS THE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE.

1. He is the divinely appointed Root and Stem upon which the branches depend; the Superior with which they, the inferior, are related in dependence. The vine-stock survives even if the branch be cut off and left to die. We are dependent upon Christ; he is not dependent upon us.

2. A close and vital union joins the branches to the vine, and Christians to their Lord. The life which is naturally Christ's becomes ours through our union by faith with him.

3. Yet it is a mutual indwelling. As Jesus himself has said, "I in you; you in me." What condescension and kindness in this marvelous provision of Divine wisdom!

III. THE BRANCHES ARE INDEBTED TO THE VINE FOR THEIR FRUITFULLNESS; SO ARE CHRISTIANS TO THEIR LORD. The branches of the living vine evince the life and health of the plant first by their vigor, their verdure, their luxuriance, their comeliness; signs of spiritual life are manifested in the Church of God by the peace, the cheerfulness, the spiritual prosperity, of its members. But the great aim of the husbandman's care and culture is that fruit may be yielded in abundance. What shall we understand by spiritual fruit, the fruits of the Spirit?

1. Perfection of Christian character.

2. Abundance in Christian usefulness.

IV. THE TREATMENT OF UNFRUITFUL AND FRUITFUL BRANCHES FIGURES THAT OF THE NOMINAL AND THE REAL DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.

1. The cause of unfruitfulness is stated. "Severed from me ye can do nothing."

2. The doom of unfruitfulness is anticipated. To be cast out and burnt, like the vine-parings in the Kedron valley.

3. The condition of fruitfulness is mentioned. Close union with Christ.

4. The means of increased fruitfulness is also explained. Divine pruning and discipline, i.e. affliction and trouble tending to spiritual strength and fertility.

V. THE MOTIVES TO CHRIST-ABIDING AND FRUIT-BEARING ARE URGED. Stress is laid here upon two.

1. Thus the heavenly Husbandman, the Divine Father, is glorified.

2. Thus Jesus secures for himself true and worthy disciples. What powerful motives to induce Christians to be "neither barren nor unfruitful"! - T.







Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN BEING A BRANCH IN CHRIST AND WHO ARE PROPERLY BRANCHES IN HIM.

1. In order to be such, we must be cut off from the stock, which is wild by nature (Romans 11:24). This stock is our natural and sinful state (1 Peter 1:18). Growing in this stock, we bring forth evil fruit. We begin to be cut off from it when we are convinced of our sin, and brought to repentance. Hence we begin to die to all dependance on our own wisdom, righteousness, and strength; to all love of the world and sin (2 Corinthians 6:17).

2. We must be ingrafted into Christ (Romans 11:24). The usual way of ingrafting is not to insert a wild scion into a good stock, but a good scion into a wild stock.

3. Hence it appears evidently who are branches in Him —(1) Negatively; not all who have been baptized, and are reckoned members of the visible Church (Romans 2:25-29), who profess to know God, and to have religion (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Corinthians 13:2, 3).(2) Positively. They are those who have experienced true repentance and faith, and are in Christ new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17).

II. WHAT IS THE FRUIT WHICH SUCH ARE EXPECTED TO BEAR. This implies the cultivation of truth, justice, mercy, charity (Hebrews 13:16; Titus 3:8; Philippians 1:10, 11). Such must also cultivate, and maintain towards themselves, temperance in all its branches, chastity, self-denial, purity, universal holiness (Hebrews 12:14).

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEARING, OR NOT BEARING, THIS FRUIT.

1. If we do not bring forth this fruit, our grace, not being exercised, is withdrawn and lost. We are actually cut off from Christ, as an unfruitful branch is lopped off from a vine. We wither in our fruits, our blossoms, and our very leaves; in our works, graces, and gifts.

2. If we do produce fruit, — we are purged, or purified, by the Spirit, through the Word (John 17:17), which is believed, and obeyed (Acts 15:9; 1 Peter 1:22); by affliction (Hebrews 12:4-11).

IV. HOW WE MAY BE ENABLED TO BEAR THIS FRUIT.

1. By abiding in Christ, and Christ in us (ver. 5). We shall not otherwise be fruitful (ver. 4), for otherwise we shall want life, inclination, knowledge, and power.

2. We abide in Him by abiding in faith, in God, in His revealed will, in His Gospel and its truths, in Christ, in the promises (John 6:47-58; Galatians 2:20; Hebrews 10:38; and especially Romans 11:16, 24). By continuing in love (John 15:9; Galatians 5:6). Hence arise deadness to the world, and power over sin. By continuing to obey (John 15:10; John 14:23, 24) In order to these, the use of all prescribed means is necessary, as the Word, prayer, watchfulness, self-denial.

(J. Benson.)

! — In the natural world branches of the vine which are not good for that to which they were specially ordained, viz., for the bearing of fruit, are good for nothing. There are trees which may be turned to secondary uses, if they fail to fulfil their primary. Not so the vine. As timber it is utterly valueless (Ezekiel 15:3, 4). It is with it exactly as with the saltless salt, which, having lost its savour, is fit only to be east out of doors; both of them being meet emblems of the spiritual man who is not spiritual, who is good neither for the work of this world nor of a higher.

(Abp. Trench.)

I. THE POSITION YOU OCCUPY. The Saviour speaks of those who are in Him. This, in a sense, is true of you; not in the highest sense, indeed; by the supposition, you are not in Him by that vital union which faith produces, and which secures fruitfulness, but you are so in a real, though a subordinate sense. You have some relation to Christ, are not like those to whom His name is unknown; you have heard of Christ, whence He came, what He did, how He suffered, how He is able and willing to "save to the uttermost" — a fact by which, while your ears are blessed, you are also involved in responsibility. To Him you were dedicated in Christian baptism; by parental piety, in His Church, His name was named upon you, and His blessing invoked. More than this. You have been trained and nurtured amid Christian influences: Inefficacious as these may have proved, they have existed; you can remember them. The possibility of such outward and visible union, as distinct from the inward and spiritual, is variously illustrated. "Have not I chosen you twelve? and one of you is a devil." "Demas hath forsaken us, having loved the present world." Such, then, is your position.

II. YOU ARE UNFRUITFUL. What do we mean by this? Not that you have no capacity for fruitfulness. You might have been so different, as different from your present self as light from darkness, life from death. Not that you have been unfruitful in all senses. Your intellect, perhaps, has been active, become acute and strong; your judgment has become matured; your affections have budded, blossomed, and brought forth fruit; your character, so far as this can be perfected without the motives and principles of Christian life, has become developed and firm. It may be, too, that in the years we are now reviewing and charging with unfruitfulness, you have done much, been a philanthropist, a patriot, a projector of useful schemes. In what, then, are you chargeable with unfruitfulness? By lacking such principles as these. Love to God. Faith in Christ. Obedience. Humility and repentance, too. It might be supposed that sense of deficiency would have produced at least these. Have they? Has your heart been broken for sin? Have you offered the sacrifice which God will not despise, the broken and contrite spirit? Thus you see, there are fruits which you have not borne, the most important fruits, and those without which all others God esteems, if not "abomination," yet certainly most subordinate.

III. SOME OF THE AGGRAVATIONS OF THIS UNFRUITFULNESS. You have had great advantages. Consider, too, the time you have wasted. How insufficient the causes, too, which have produced your infertility. It were wise for you seriously to inquire what these have been. Decree, fate, providence, necessity — you cannot charge these with the future. Your conscience is too enlightened for that. No! the cause is not from above. Nor from beneath altogether. Satan has no compulsory power over us. Where, then, is the cause to be found? In yourself only; in your yielding to outward influences. It is a further aggravation of your sin, that all the time of your unfruitfulness you have been positively injurious. Think, for example, of the incomparable mischief a father does in his family all the time he is living a worldly and careless life.

IV. THE DOOM OF THE UNFRUITFUL BRANCH. It is one proof, among many, of God's willingness to save, that he announces punishment before He executes it. None are led blindfold to justice. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away." This is fulfilled variously. It is sometimes in the loss of capacity. Then there is Death. This is common to man as the penally of sin; but to different men, how different! Whatever heaven is, and its glory is inexpressible, such are taken away from it; whatever hell is, and its dolefulness, as described by Christ, no darkness can paint, they are taken away to it.

(J. Viney.)

Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it.
I. THE TEXT SUGGESTS SELF-EXAMINATION. It mentions —

1. Two characters who are in some respects exceedingly alike; they are both branches, and are in the vine: and yet for all this, the end of the one shall be to be cast away, while the end of the other shall be to bring forth fruit.

2. The distinction between them. The first branch brought forth no fruit; the second branch bore some fruit. We have no right to judge of our neighbours' motives and thoughts, except so far as they may be clearly discoverable by their actions and words. The interior we must leave with God, but the exterior we may judge. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Paul has given us a list of these fruits in Galatians 5:23. Say, professor, hast thou brought forth the fruit "love?" etc. It is so easy for us to wrap ourselves up in the idea that attention to religious ceremonies is the test, but it is not so, for "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees," etc.

3. The solemn difference between them leads to a solemn result.

(1)Sometimes God allows the professor to apostatise.

(2)Or else he is allowed to fall into open sin.

(3)Some have been taken away in a more terrible sense by death.

II. CONVEYS INSTRUCTION. The fruit-bearing branches are not perfect. If they were, they would not need pruning. Whenever the sap within them is strong, there is a tendency for that strength to turn into evil. The gardener desires to see that strength in clusters, but alas! instead it runs into wood. When the sap comes into a Christian to produce confidence in God, through the evil that is in him, it often produces confidence in himself. When the sap would produce zeal, how very frequently it turns into rashness. Suppose the sap flows to produce self-examination, very generally, instead of the man doubting himself, he begins to doubt his Lord. How often have I seen even the joy of the Lord turned into pride. That love which we ought to bear towards our neighbours, how apt is that to run into love of the world! Gentleness often turns to a silly compliance with everybody's whim, and meekness, which is a fruit of the Spirit, how often that becomes an excuse for holding your tongue, when you ought boldly to speak!

2. Pruning is the lot of all the fruitful saints. It is generally thought that our trials and troubles purge us: I am not sure of that, they certainly are lost upon some. It is the word (ver. 3) that prunes the Christian. Affliction is the handle of the knife, the grindstone that sharpens up the Word; the dresser which removes our soft garments, and lays bare the diseased flesh, so that the surgeon's lancet may get at it. Affliction makes us ready to feel the word, but the true pruner is the word in the hand of the Great Husbandman. Sometimes when you lay stretched upon the bed of sickness, you think more upon the word than you did before, that is one great thing. In the next place, you see more the applicability of that word to yourself. In the third place, the Holy Spirit makes you feel more, while you are thus laid aside, the force of the word than you did before.

3. The object in this pruning is never condemnatory. God chastises, but He cannot punish those for whom Jesus Christ has been already punished. You have no right to say, when a man is afflicted, that it is because he has done wrong; on the contrary, just the branch that is good for something gets the pruning knife. It is because the Lord loves His people that He chastens them.

4. The real reason is that more fruit may be produced.(1) In quantity. A good man, who feels the power of the word pruning him of this and that superfluity, sets to work to do more for Jesus. Before he was afflicted he did not know how to be patient. Before he was poor he did not know how to be humble, etc.(2) In variety. One tree can only produce one kind of fruit usually, but the Lord's people, the more they are pruned the more they will produce.(3) In quality. The man may not pray more, but he will pray more earnestly.

5. What greater blessing can a man have than to produce much fruit for God? Better to serve God much than to become a prince.

III. INVITES MEDITATION.

1. "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the wicked appear?"

2. What a mercy it is to the believer that it is pruning with him and not cutting off!

3. Think how gently the pruning has been done with the most of us up till now, compared with our barrenness.

4. How earnestly we ought to seek for more fruit.

5. How concerned should every one of us be to be efficaciously and truly one with Christ!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

(Thanksgiving Sermon): —

I. TODAY WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL because —

1. Hard as the times are, they might be worse.

2. The times are not so hard as we deserve.

3. They are not so hard as we represent.

II. WHAT WE CALL HARD TIMES ARE THE BEST FOR US.

1. Good for man's physical nature. The frugality and self-control they induce are precisely what the athlete practices.

2. Good for his intellectual nature. No great genius ever daudled into inspiration.

3. Good for his moral nature. They remove the excrescences of —

(1)Covetousness.

(2)Luxury.

(3)Indolence.

III. THE RESULT WILL BE BETTER FRUIT.

1. A new style or higher type of manhood.

2. A higher type of politics. Hard times teach befooled people to think, and to rise above party dictations.

3. A higher type of religion. God has ever developed the higher Christian life in times of trial.

IV. AFTER ALL, THE PRUNING KNIFE IS ONLY ONE OF THE IMPLEMENTS OF CULTURE. Soft rain and genial sunshine are the larger experience of the vine. And so even in hard times our afflictions are not one to a thousand of our blessings.

(C. D. Wadsworth, D. D.)

Brambles certainly have a fine time of it, and grow after their own pleasure. We have seen their long shoots reaching far and wide, and no knife has threatened them as they luxuriated upon the commons and waste lands. The poor vine is cut down so closely that little remains of it but bare stems. Yet, when clearing time comes, and the brambles are heaped for their burning, who would not rather be the vine?

(C. D. Wadsworth, D. D.)

The word translated "purgeth" is kathairo, which includes all the means that are necessary to develop the fruitfulness of the plant, and the removal of all hindrances. It means to purify the ground and prepare it for sowing, by removing weeds and rubbish — to winnow the corn, to separate the chaff from the wheat. Its root idea is purity, freedom from all that is foul, false, useless, or noxious. It is interesting to notice the close resemblance that exists between the word kathairo, to purge, and kathaireo, to destroy. The addition of one letter makes the one word to mean a very different thing from the other. And so there is a resemblance between the purging of the fruitful branches and the taking away of the unfruitful ones. In the garden during spring, the process of digging the ground, cutting the roots and branches, seems purely a process of destruction; but in the added beauty of summer and the richer fruitfulness of autumn, it is seen to be a remedial and constructive process. And so the means which God employs to promote the fertility of His own people seem so like those which He employs to punish the wicked, that the righteous are not seldom perplexed. In considering the means of fruitfulness, let us look at —

I. THE NATURE OF THE SOIL in which believers are planted.

1. Some of the finest grapes are produced on volcanic soil. From the rich red mould into which lava is disintegrated when long exposed to the weather, the vine draws the juices that form the largest and most generous clusters. The passion of the soil, as it were, passes into the produce. Palestine, the native country of the vine, exhibits, for its size, more than any other country, evidences of extraordinary geological convulsions. These features were paralleled by the historical revolutions which were intended to make Israel the true vine of the Lord. And so it is in the experience of every nation that is intended to produce much fruit. Africa, with its uniform geology and its monotonous history, has done little for mankind compared with Europe, whose geology and history are exceedingly varied and complicated. It is as true of individuals as of nations, that because they have no changes, they do not fear God or prosper. But God plants His vines amid fiery trials, where they are exposed to constant temptations, lava floods of the wrath and malice of the Adversary and of wicked men. Since the ground beneath them is insecure, and liable to constant convulsive shocks, they are thereby induced to set their affections more firmly on things above, and to walk as pilgrims and strangers on earth.

2. The influence of external circumstances upon objects so plastic as plants is confessedly very powerful, leading often to great modifications of form, structure, and substance. Hence the endless variety of grapes and wines of different countries. A similar modification in the character of the growth and fruit of the Christian is caused by the circumstances in which God's providence places him. One thing, amid all the changes of his circumstances, the Christian can command if he will — and that is the sunlight of God's countenance. He does not, however, always avail himself of it. And hence, as the spice trees in our hot houses are destitute of aromatic taste, because we cannot supply them with the brilliant direct sunshine of their native skies, so the Christian, amid all the privileges of the Church, is often destitute of the rich aromatic fragrance of spiritual joy, because he seeks to make up, by the heat of forced spiritual emotion originating in himself, for the full, bright, joyous sunshine that beams from God's face.

3. Under this head may be noticed the discipline of life's daily work as one of the means of developing Christian fruitfulness. Like the vine, the Christian requires to be trained along the trellis of formal duties and orderly habits.

4. I may also notice the fact, that God's tenderest vines are often placed in the most trying circumstances. It seems a strange appointment of nature, that the growing points of all trees should be their weakest and most delicate parts. So it is with God's own people. Many of the most delicate and sensitive of them have to bear the full brunt of life's storms. Tender women have often to withstand the severest shocks of circumstances. The sorest trials often meet the Christian at the beginning of his course. He puts forth the tenderest growths of his nature often into the biting air of doubt, and fear, and despondency. But it is good thus to bear the yoke in our youth. The elasticity and hopefulness of the young Christian can overcome trials which would crush the more aged and less buoyant. And the very patience and tenderness of those sensitive ones, who have to bear greater hardships and evils, disarm these evils of their bitterness, and turn them to profitable uses.

II. PRUNING IS ONE OF THE MOST COMMON METHODS BY WHICH INCREASED FRUITFULNESS IS PRODUCED. No plant requires more pruning than the vine. So bountiful is its sap, so vigorous its vital force, that we are amazed at the abundance of superfluous growth which it annually produces. In order to adapt it to our conditions of cultivation we must systematically cripple and restrict it in every part.

1. The head, or leading shoots, are carefully broken off; and the long, luxuriant, lateral shoots are cut back to a few joints.

2. But besides the pruning of the suckers on the branch the branch itself is sometimes pruned. In almost every branch, owing to deficiency of light and heat, or overcrowding, many of the buds that are put forth every year become dormant. Some of these torpid buds retain a sufficient amount of vitality to carry them forward through the annually deposited layers of wood and bark; so that they still continue to maintain their position visibly, year after year, on the outside of the bark. In most instances, however, they are too feeble to keep pace with the onward growth of the branch; and, in that case, they fall behind, necessarily sink below the surface, and become buried beneath succeeding annual deposits of wood and bark. The branch, instead of developing them, employs the sap which ought to have gone for that purpose, into growing fresh shoots. But the gardener comes, and with his sharp pruning knife lops off these useless suckers; and the consequence is, that in a little while the sap goes back to the dormant buds and stimulates their slumbering vitality. And so God prunes every branch in the True Vine for two reasons; first, in order to remove rank and useless qualities; and, secondly, to develop latent graces. In no Christian is there an harmonious spiritual growth, a perfect expansion from a perfect germ in childhood. On the contrary, growth in grace in us is always unsymmetrical. Solid and valuable qualities are united with weak, worthless ones; graces that charm by their beauty lie side by side with defects that repel by their deformity. Some graces, also, are dormant in the soul, repressed by unfavourable circumstances of continued prosperity, or starved by the over-development of other graces. Some besetting sins, such as irritability, covetousness, worldliness, pride, impatience, are allowed to grow up and exhaust in their noxious growth the life of the soul. Now, to repress the evil and stimulate the good qualities of His people, God subjects them to the pruning of His providence. But, the pruning of God's providence would be very unsatisfactory did it only lop off noxious qualities, mortify easily besetting sins. Such injurious growths may be repressed by affliction, but unless the discipline develops the opposite good qualities, they will spring up anew, and make matters worse than before. Spiritual graces must be developed in their room. In order to get rid of worldly mindedness, spirituality of mind must be cultivated; covetousness will only yield to a larger experience of the Love that for our sakes became poor: anger will only be extirpated by meekness, and pride by humility.

3. But we must be guarded against the idea that affliction of itself can develop the fruitfulness of the Christian life. We find that in the fruit tree the pruning is only of use when there are latent or open buds to develop. And so, unless we have Christian life and Christian capabilities, affliction, so far from doing us good, will only harden and injure us. But, while affliction cannot impart spiritual life, there are instances in which God uses it to quicken the soul dead in trespasses and sins. And here, too, we find an analogy in nature. The buds of plants almost always grow in the axil — the vacant angle between the leaf and the stem, where the hard, resisting bark which everywhere else invests the surface of the plant, is more easily penetrated, and allows the growing tissues to expand more easily. The axil is, so to speak, the joint in the armour of the stem. Now, "a wound is virtually an axil, for the continuity of the surface is there broken, and consequently, the resistance of the external investiture diminished." Now, we all invest ourselves with a strong, resisting envelope of pride, worldliness and carelessness. Our property, our friends, our reputation, our comfort, all form a kind of outer crust of selfishness, which prevents our spiritual growth. But God removes our property or our friends, blights our reputation, destroys our carnal ease, and by the wound thus made in our selfish life an axil is formed, from whence springs up the bud of a new and holier growth.

4. There is one process of unusual severity which the gardener has recourse to in cases of obstinate sterility. The barren branch is girdled or ringed — that is, a narrow strip of its bark is removed all round the branch. The juices elaborated by the leaves are arrested in their downward course, and accumulated in the part above the ring, which is thus enabled to produce fruit abundantly; while the shoots that appear below the ring, being fed only by the crude ascending sap, do not bear flowers, but push forth into leafy branches. The prophet Joel says, "He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree." Many Christians are ringed to prevent the earthward tendencies of their souls, and enable them to accumulate and concentrate all the heavenly influences which they receive in bringing forth more fruit. Their present life is separated from their past by some terrible crisis of suffering, which has altered everything to their view, which has been in itself a transformation, and has accomplished in a day, in an hour, in a moment, what else is effected only by the gradual process of years. The lot that is thus halved may be more useful than in its full and joyful completeness. Ceasing to draw its nourishment from broken cisterns of earthly love, the lonely branch, separated from its happy past, depends more upon the unfailing clue and sunshine of heavenly love.

5. Sometimes even the roots of the vine require to be dug about and cut short. There is a correspondence between the horizontal extension of the branches in the air and the lateral spreading of the roots in the earth. For this reason the roots require pruning no less than the branches. If they are allowed to develop too luxuriantly, the branches will keep pace with them, only they will be barren. We are prone to root ourselves too firmly in the rich soil of our circumstances, to spread our roots far and wide in search of what shall minister to our love of ease and pleasure. But God digs about us. Our circumstances crumble away about our roots; the things and the persons in which we trusted prove as unstable as a sand heap on a slope. But, from roots bare and exposed, or cut off and circumscribed by uncongenial soil, we should seek to develop a higher beauty and richness of character.

6. The leaves also need sometimes to be taken away, as superabundant foliage would shade the fruit and prevent the sunshine from getting access to it to ripen it. So the fruit of the Christian is sometimes prevented from ripening or filling out properly by the superabundance of the leaves of profession. There may be more profession than practice, more of the rustling foliage than of the silent fruit. The most common fault of believers is letting their profession of the Christian life run ahead of their experience. Not more necessary are the leaves of a natural tree to the production of the fruit, than the profession of a Christian is to the formation of the Christian character. But God, by some appropriate discipline, regulates what leaves of profession should be stripped off and what leaves should remain.

7. Many of the tendrils of the vine require to be nipped off, in order that no sap may be wasted, or diverted from the fruit. If left to itself, the vine would put forth a tendril at every alternate joint; for it would seek to climb to the top of the highest tree. In like manner, it is necessary that the excessive upward tendency of some Christians should he restricted, in order that the common duties, and the homely concerns of ordinary life — which in their own sphere are equally important — may not be neglected.

8. The fruit itself must be thinned. The gardener prunes the cluster of grapes when young and tender, in order that the berries which are allowed to remain may be larger and finer. In the Christian life there must be concentration of effort, conservation of force. Much moral energy is spent without effect on a multiplicity of objects, which, if husbanded and focussed on a few of the most important, would lead to far greater results.

9. It has been observed that the hues of the sunbeam which the growing plant does not reflect at one time are absorbed, like a stream running underground for a while, and reappear in some after part. So is it with God's discipline of His people. Much of it may seem to be void and lost — to make no adequate return; but in some part or other of the life the effect of it is seen. If it fails to manifest itself in the leaf, it comes out in the blossom or fruit.

10. It may happen, however, that the purging, whose various forms and relations I have thus considered, may be here, and the fruition in eternity. Christians are placed in an unfavourable climate. Tropical by nature, they have been carried, like a wind-wafted seed, into a temperate zone, and have striven in vain to grow and flower among the hardy plants around them. But it is a comforting thought, that what bears about it here the marks of incompleteness, and to our eyes the appearance of failure, belongs essentially to some vaster whole.

III. ANOTHER METHOD OF PURGING THE BRANCH IS FREEING IT FROM ITS ENEMIES. The natural vine, owing to its rich productiveness, is peculiarly exposed to the attacks of numerous foes which prey upon it.

1. A species of vegetable parasite not unfrequently assails it, called the "dodder." This strange plant is a mere mass of elastic, pale red, knotted threads, which shoot out in all directions over the vine. It springs originally from the ground, and if it finds no living plant near on which to graft itself, it withers and dies; but if there be a vine or any other useful plant within its reach, it surrounds the stem in a very little time, and henceforth lives on the fostering plant by its suckers only, the original root in the ground becoming dried up. The dodder is exceedingly injurious to the plants it attacks, depriving them of their nourishment, and strangling them in its folds. Can we imagine a more striking natural emblem of the law of sin and death with which the believer has to contend, and from which he longs for deliverance? We can only hope to prevent the dodder growing and spreading by perpetually breaking and dividing its stalks before they have time to fruit; and we can only hope to keep down the remains of corruption within us by incessant effort, watchfulness, and prayer; not allowing them to develop into fruit and seed. How blessed will be the deliverance when this terrible despoiler of our peace and usefulness is finally and completely removed from us, when we are saved forever from the power and presence of that sin from whose guilt the blood of Christ has freed us!

2. Every one has heard of the terrible grape mildew which, on its first appearance, utterly destroyed the vineyards in many parts of the world, and still annually reappears to levy its tax upon the vine grower. In consists of a fungus, whose growth spreads a white, downy mould over the surface of the grape, checking its development, and converting its pulp into a sour and watery mass of decay. But it does no harm unless the conditions of its germination exists — which are cold, wet seasons, with little sunshine — in which case it starts into life, and grows with inconceivable rapidity, spreading ruin on every side. To a species of moral mildew the fruit of the Christian is also exposed. In cold seasons, when clouds of unbelief rise up between the soul and the Sun of Righteousness, intercepting His light, this mildew is peculiarly destructive. It is a very solemn thought, that the spiritual atmosphere is full of the devices of the Prince of the power of the air — that the existence of another world of evil beyond our own world, makes all remissness on our part most dangerous.

3. In this country, the greatest pest of the vinery is the little red spider, whose movements over the leaves and fruit are exceedingly nimble, and which makes up by its vast numbers for its individual weakness. It punctures the fruit, sips its juice, and thus injures its appearance and quality. In the East, the land of the vine, the special foe of the vineyard is the fox. "Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes" — or small grapes just out of blossom — says the beautiful Song of Solomon. These are fitting symbols of some weakness or infirmity of believers — some sin of temper or tongue — which, although it may not endanger their safety, will, nevertheless, greatly mar their peace. Peevishness, irritability, etc., may seem so small and trifling as to be hardly entitled to be called sins at all. They may be extenuated and explained away, but they are in reality red spiders — little foxes, that spoil the tender grapes of the soul.

4. There is a disease called "rust," which makes its appearance on the berries of the vine a few days after they are out. It is supposed to be caused by handling the berries while thinning them. Our vines have indeed tender grapes. The beauty of holiness is easily blurred: self-consciousness rusts it; affectation brushes off the fine edge — the delicate beauty of the various graces.

5. Another disease known to gardeners is "shanking," which makes its appearance just as the grapes are changing from the acid to the saccharine state, and arrests the transformation at once; the berry remaining perfectly acid, and at length shrivelling up. It begins in the decay of the little stem or shank of the berry, and is supposed to be caused by the roots of the vine descending into a cold, wet subsoil. How often, alas, is it true of the believer, that his fruit is shanked, remaining sour when it should become sweet and palatable!

(H. Macmillan, D. D.)

What is pruning? Whatever it be, two things are observable. It is effected by the husbandman, and applied to each. It is a pleasant thought that all the discipline is from the hand of our Father. There may indeed by which we are exercised be subordinate instruments, the "wicked" being God's "sword," but it is still "the Lord's doing." A work so important as the spiritual culture of His people He commits wholly to none. "He pruneth," nor are any exempt. "Every branch" is the subject of pruning. As all need, so all have, discipline. In the deepest trial there has nothing happened to you but what is "common to man." And why this? For greater fruitfulness. Not "willingly," for wantonness, for pleasure, for any benefit the husbandman secures, but for fruit. The subject, then, is, Fruit as the result of affliction. Affliction! What a scene does this word open to view. It is well to bear in mind that it is confined to earth. There are whole races of beings who experimentally know not the meaning of the word, who never felt a pain, never breathed a sigh, never wept a tear; others to whom it is a thing of the past. How truthful in this, as in all other respects, is the Bible. How large a portion of the Scriptures is occupied with scenes and truths bearing on affliction! The terms by which it designates it, how various — "adversity," "correction," "chastisement," "calamity," "distress," "grief," "judgment," "stripes," "smiting," "trouble," "visitation," are some of the literal expressions; while the figures of "fire," "water," the "rod," the "yoke," "gall," "wormwood," "rough wind," "sackcloth," "ashes," and many others, are significantly employed as its symbols. You know, too, how deeply all the histories of the Bible are tinged by it: Job in the ashes, Jacob mourning his children, Joseph in the pit, Moses in the desert, David in the wilderness, the youths in the furnace, Daniel in the den — what are all these familiar tales of life, but scenes of affliction, showing how it was experienced and borne? It is not of affliction, however, whether in fact or description, we have now to think, but of its fruit, the "more fruit," which it is designed to produce, the "peaceable fruit" which "afterward" it yields.

1. Affliction deepens on the mind a sense of the reality of eternal things. It is said that after an earthquake, men tread more warily. The foundations having been shaken, a sense of insecurity is felt, which produces solemn impression.

2. Another valuable result of affliction is increased sense of the value of religion. When Israel passed through the desert they learnt, as they never otherwise could have done, the worth of many things — water, manna, guidance. As the dove beaten by the tempest to the sheltering ark, as the tossed disciples to the mighty One who walked on the billows, we repair to Christ. Certain colours require certain lights to show them. There are views of Christ as a Saviour, a Friend, a High Priest, an Example, which only the shadow of affliction could enable us to discern, but which, when once seen, remain forever upon the vision of the soul. So with God's Word. To enjoy plaintive music or a minor key, a certain state of mind is requisite; and who but one in trial can fully enter into the deep bass of sorrow and wailing in the Lamentations or the Psalms. Prayer is another exercise of which affliction teaches the value. "I will go and return unto My place till they seek My face, in their affliction they will seek Me early."

3. Another valuable effect of affliction is the cultivation and growth of the passive virtues. The importance and value of these we are apt to overlook. Constitutionally active, we are all prone to honour the more stirring graces rather than the gentler ones. By far the larger proportion are passive virtues. What are these? Patience, submission, acquiescence. To take away wilfulness, waywardness, self-determination, and suchlike natural excrescences, and thus secure the opposite growth, He prunes even the fruitful branch.

4. Another fruit of affliction is increasing fellowship with Christ. There are communications for which affliction is indispensable, and which the Saviour reserves for this season. To see the stars we require darkness. Certain flowers open only at night. The sweetest song is heard in the dusk. The most beautiful effect of colour requires a camera obscura, a darkened chamber. It is even thus with affliction. Would Abraham have heard the angel had it not been for the outstretched knife? And it is worth while to be afflicted to have such fruit as this. Is it necessary to pass through spiritual darkness and desertion in order to know the unchanging love of Christ.

5. Another result of sanctified affliction is increased desire for heaven. Such are some of the fruits of sanctified affliction. Some, not all. Each affliction comes with its special message, as well as its general one. "Every branch" has its own particular deformities, and these the pruning knife first cuts. It may be, too, that affliction sometimes comes specially with reference to others — is rather relative than personal. Trial may be vicarious. The child suffers for the parent, the sister for the brother, the minister for the people. Learn, then, to estimate affliction aright. Seek earnestly to get the benefit of affliction. Look through affliction to that which is beyond.

(J. Viney.)

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