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him from us, do we not linger on each instant, till we draw it out into an age of after-memories ! Blessed Lord ! Holy Jesus ! in this also thou canst sympathize ; for thou hast witnessed and shared the bitter grief of our human hearts ; thou knowest that however we may hope and believe, yet we must draw back in anguish, from the awful chasm over which death must carry from our sight our best beloved.
The little band of brothers, the assembly of the Apostles, broke up; but no one moved to go. In mournful silence they stood around their Lord ; then He opened his lips, and spake words which never left the minds of those who heard them. We may trace them through the different Epistles written by three of the Apostles in after years. They were engraven on their memories. They have passed from the lips of Christ to become a principle of life in every heart united to Him in His most holy religion. They
They are these Verses 1, 2. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.”
The vine was a favorite type of Israel,* and, as the chosen emblem of the nation, it was made to adorn the porch of the temple which led into the Holy Place. Over the entrance of this Porch was festooned a golden vine of enormous size, the grapes of which were as big as men.
This was one of the wonders of the Temple, highly prized by the Jews, and the object of the admiration of strangers. Perhaps it was for this reason our Lord chose the favorite and well-known emblem of the nation as the comparison with which he compared Himself, the King of Israel, at once the root and strength of his people.
* Jeremiah ii. 21. Ezekiel xix. 10. Joel i. 7. + Surely it is our wisest plan, to follow the leading of our blessed Lord, when we would impress His sacred lessons on the heart.
Perhaps the comparison arose from the wine still upon the table, some of which he had just used to picture to his disciples his blood about to be shed for the salvation of men. He had called it “ the fruit of the vine.” However that may be, no likeness which could have been chosen could better make us understand the close union of Christ with his people. It is so full of clear and life-giving truth that there is no need to write upon it. Like God's own works, it is perfect in its divine simplicity, needing nothing that man can add to it. It requires no learning to enter fully into its teaching. The Philosopher must throw from him all pride of Philosophy when he would learn of the Vine-tree. He may stand before it with the little child, and the laboring man, who perhaps can read no other book but God's book of nature, and with them may fully learn its holy lesson. Together they may gaze upon its clusters with equal understanding that not the smallest or the largest branch can bring forth one single grape but as joined to the stem ; that from the root must rise the sap that carries life to fruit, leaf, and tendril ; and that parted from it, each branch must wither and be fit only to be cast into the fire. Therefore to the child, to the philosopher and to the untaught peasant, it is equally clear that if Christ is the vine, and they are the branches, from Christ only can they receive the whole power
of religious life.*
* One lovely day. in Spring, a mother sat with her three little children in a garden in France. A vine-tree covered the wall behind them. With the Bible on her knee, she strove to make them comprehend the great work the Saviour came to do. She read to them different parts of his life, and then the first 10 verses of the xvth chapter of St. John.
Pointing to the vine, she showed them its luxuriant branches, bright with the leaves and tendrils of early spring, then bade her eldest boy cut from it a large and beautiful branch. They looked at it well, and noticed the grape-flowers that promised many a bunch. She told them that she was going to keep it with the greatest care, and showed them where she laid it safe from harm. The children talked about this branch a little while, and then forgot it.
Autumn came, and again the mother sat with her children below the vine. VOL. IV.
• My Father is the husbandman,” said our Lord, he who watches over the vine and its branches, and ordereth all things in such a way as will further its fruitfulness. Each branch which, by bringing forth no fruit, makes no return for the advantages of its situation, he takes away. Why should it fill a place that might be better filled, why waste care and culture upon it? And "every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." Let us follow the Gardener into the garden, the Vine-dresser into the vineyard, and watch their doings ; from them we shall learn deep lessons of watchful care, of faith and of resignation. We see them cut from the vine all that would divert the
sap from those buds that will become clusters of grapes, and unsparingly take away each branch that does not bear fruit at all.
tree, now loaded with the richest grapes. They were enchanted with its beauty, and she gave them of the fruit. In the midst of their enjoyment, she rose and brought from its place, the branch she had laid away in spring. Poor withered branch! It was nothing now but a mass of brown leaves, that crumbled into dust as they were touched, and of dry sticks fit only to be burned. The children felt for it as if it had been once a living thing, which indeed in some sort of way it had been, and, with earnest faces, they listened to their mother, as she read to them again the Saviour's words—“I am the vine, and ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without me, ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, hepis cast forth as a branch, and is withered ; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
Even the youngest child, though but five years old, as she looked, from the glorious purple of the clustering grapes above her bead, to the brown dry heap of withered leaves, could comprehend what she might live to be, if her heart was in union with her Lord ;- and what the end must be, if she turned from Him, and lived without thought of Him. She died in early youth, but not before the bright promise of her childhood had been fulfilled, and she had truly adorned the doctrine of her God and Saviour. The boys! Their's was a rougher path. The younger was the first who showed the fruits of his early education ; the elder, after many wanderings, returned to his home an altered man. When his thankful mother marked the change, he said-—"Mother, do you remember the vine-tree at St. Germains? I have never forgotten the lesson taught me by that withered branch."
As our eyes follow the pruning knife, and we see many a lovely garland fall to the ground, are we not tempted to cry, “Forbear.” “ The loss is a gain,” the husbandman replies," it will bear more and better fruit.” O God, when we grieve over the loss of that which is precious in our eyes, let us remember this, and with patient faith strive to bring forth fruit that will glorify Thee.
Verse 3. Now ye are clean (said our Lord to the Apostles,) through the words which I have spoken unto you.”
The pruning-knife of the husbandman had been at work with the Apostles. Their worldly hopes had all been cut away with unsparing hand. To each of these branches of the "true vine” nought was now left but that bud from which was to spring forth the glorious fruit of Christ's religion. This had been brought about by the word he had spoken, “the word sharper than any two-edged sword,” and piercing to the very heart's
They had believed it, “and it was counted to them for righteousness ;" * therefore Jesus said " Ye are clean through the words I have spoken to you."
This was the work He had done. Their safety and their fruitfulness now depended entirely on their remaining in close communion with Him, seeking from him, when they should no longer see him, the power to serve him. They should abundantly receive it. His words abiding in their memories and in their hearts should, by the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, be as the fructifying sap which, rising from the root through the branches of the vine, causes each bud to blossom and to ripen into the rich clusters of grapes that are to cheer and refresh the nations.t
* Romans iy. 3. + The history of the management of the vine is the best commentary upon this chapter. “We plant in early Spring, and for the first season we expect no fruit ,
How beautiful, how perfect, and how soul-satisfying is the emblem! Let us have it clearly in our minds while we read the Saviour's words.
Verses 47. “ Abide in me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches : He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered ; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye
abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Those who abide in Christ, and whose guide is. His word, will never desire what is contrary to His will, therefore the promise is without any limit. Whatsoever they ask they shall receive.
Verses 8, 9.
“ Herein is my Father glorified, that ye
(Parents, be not impatient to reap the fruits of your instructions in early youth ; there is a time for all things) ;, but we take care to throw the strength of the plant into the main stem, by removing all the side branches and shoots. The wood will not be ripe before the late Autumn. We cut it back before Christmas, within a few buds of the root, to strengthen the plant. This is all that can be done the first year, (and how well it explains many of the throw. backs and disappointments of youth-all needful to mature the character). Next Spring, the buds left near the root throw out branches, which, if trained, should all bear fruit ;. these spring from the main stem, which is the vine, and they must also be cut away just above the buds, which are to produce the clusters of grapes, so that the sap from the vine may not be diverted into any channel away from the fruit. The plant is now in a state for full bearing, and should in Autumn be covered with ripe fruit.” Even so through life do we receive many a check, without which our energies would lead us away from the chief end for which life was given-to glorify God by bringing forth much fruit. This account is taken from the dictation of a very successful gardener.