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Those that bear not fruit, are disciples in name only. They have “a name to live," but are “ dead.” Consequently they will be taken away" by the Lord of the vineyard. They will be “ cast forth.” They will wither. Even the advantages which they seem to possess, will be taken from them : their worthlessness will be made to appear, and they will be utterly rejected. A fruitless vinebranch, a dead professor of Christianity, is an encumbrance and a disgrace to the Church. We may say of it, as Ezekiel said of old, “ Behold it is cast into the fire for fuel; the fire devoureth both the ends of it, and the midst of it is burned. Is it meet for any work ?" (Ezekiel xv. 4.)
The disciples had already seen, in the case of Judas, one such branch cast forth: whose awful end was, to be burned in unquenchable fire.
6. The fruitful branches are, all true and faithful disciples of Christ. Such were the eleven, who listened to this beautiful discourse, which Jesus addressed personally to them: “I am the vine: ye are the branches.” And our Lord describes their character in several respects: by considering which, we may know whether we be living branches of the True Vine. Let us carefully attend to this important description.
1. True disciples are united to Christ, on their part, by a lively faith: and Christ is united to them, on his part, by his putting into them the energy of life; just as the root and stem of the vine send forth sap into the branches. The means, by which Christ puts life into his true disciples, is, his word : “ Now ye are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you.” Faith is the act of the heart, receiving that word. “ Faith cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of God.” • 2. True servants of Christ are known to be such, because they are fruit-bearing disciples. A living branch cannot be known in any other way: but this is proof sufficient of its vital union to the parent-stock. It “ beareth fruit." What better evidence of life can there be ?
3. Our fruitfulness depends entirely on our union with Christ; but the union itself is maintained by meditation on the word and by prayer. “ If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Communication must needs be kept up, between our souls and Christ; otherwise our souls will languish. That communication must be, through the word of God and prayer. This is what our Lord calls, Abiding in him. This is the way to continue in his love. This is the secret of our fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Without Christ, as our Source of grace, and without the word and prayer, as our Means of grace, we can do nothing !
4. True disciples earnestly desire to bear “much” fruit: that is, to abound in every good word and work. Eminent holiness brings the greater glory to our Heavenly Father, and makes our evidence clearer that we are indeed Christ's disciples.
5. Our Heavenly Father, who is the Husbandman, knows well how this abundant fruitfulness is to be promoted. Not without much pruning does the branch bear good fruit: nor shall we grow in holiness without much discipline, many trials, many afflictions and sorrows. These are sent for our profiting. They may seem to be severe; but they are needed. They are the pruning-knife in the hand of a skilful and kind husbandman.
Are we to suppose that the disciples, when they heard this passing address concerning the vine, fully understood their Master's instruction? Probably, not altogether, and not all at once. But the Holy Spirit afterwards brought this similitude to their remembrance, and impressed them deeply with an inward experience of its meaning. We too are very slow of heart, in learning these necessary truths. Oh, let us earnestly pray to be taught by the Holy Ghost ! Then shall we know clearly what is meant by union with Christ; by faith; by the indwelling Spirit; by the word and prayer; and by growth in grace. Then likewise shall we understand the wisdom and love of God, in cutting away our empty branches of profession; thereby causing our souls to flourish in health and vigour, under his sharpest dispensations.
and by growthe wisdom and of profession;
THE MUTUAL JOY OF CHRIST AND HIS
John xv. 11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain
in you, and that your joy might be full. The minds of the disciples were already overcast with anxiety on this dark evening: and the Chief Sufferer knew that a night of deepest gloom would soon close in upon them. Yet he speaks to them of joy; yea, fulness of joy! Mutual love imparts a pleasure that is inexpressible; a pleasure sufficient to swallow up all thought of pain. Such mutual love subsisted between Christ and his disciples. He therefore rejoiced over them: and they rejoiced in Him. Could any thing be more seasonable, than this mutual love and mutual joy?
“ These things have I spoken unto you”-says Christ. His discourse had been on their union with him; the emblem of the vine being yet present before them. And he dwelt on this mysterious, yet delightful theme; both because it ministered to his own happiness, and because it was the means of perfecting theirs. Let us meditate on these two points; the joy of Christ, and that of his disciples.
1. Christ took pleasure in his disciples. He had joy in them. In his human nature he could not do otherwise than rejoice in having friends. When speaking of his complacency in the eleven, and expressing his hope that his would be an abiding satisfaction, he spake as any man would do concerning his chosen and faithful friends. Christ loved them, humble as their condition was, because they were simple, devoted, true-hearted followers. He says to them “ Continue ye in my love:” that is-Seek grace to assist you in living and acting as you have hitherto done: then will my joy and satisfaction in you remain. You will abide in my love, even as I abide in my Father's love. As He delighteth in me, so shall I delight in you.
In his Divine Nature, also, Jesus would rejoice over these faithful servants: first, because they glorified his Father by their abundant fruits of holiness; and next, because they were to be his ambassadors, and the heralds of salvation to man. kind. “ Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men”- this was the object of Christ's Ministry, while he tabernacled in flesh: and no less would it be the subject of the preaching of the Apostles, after Christ's ascension to heaven. Jesus, therefore, both as Son of God and Son of man, rejoiced in viewing the eleven as his future representatives, no less than as friends, who had continued with him in his temptations. ,
Happy they, who are united to Christ by a living and abiding faith: highly-honoured are they also, if further commissioned by him, to preach his everlasting Gospel! Jesus himself delights over them to do them good; and blesses them, both in their own souls, and in their Ministry.