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UNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH.
JOHN XV. 5.
Jesus, immutably the same,
Thou true and living vine,
My feeble arms I twine.
In growth I daily rise,
A. M. T.
UNIVERSAL nature and true reason teach us the reality of our union to God, as he is the author of our existence, in whom we live, move, and have our being. But, it is not in the power either of nature or reason to teach us how, as sinful, fallen creatures, we can enjoy a union with God, for our restoration, pardon, peace, and everlasting felicity. On this interesting point Revelation alone affords us information. It directs us to the harmony of the divine attributes, in the counsel, covenant, redemption, and grace, existing between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of saving sinners, and bringing them into fellowship with God in life, and to the bliss of eternity! In the language of Scripture, this union is currently declared to be in CHRIST, as our Head, Bridegroom, and Vine; the latter of which is selected for your present meditation, it being the condescention of Jesus to teach us the nature, and benefit of interest in him, by those emblems which are most familiar to our senses.
The vine in its appearance is extremely weak and far from engaging the admiration of a beholder, yet bears the richest clusters of fruit, the most delicious to the taste, and, when compressed, yields a liquid at once medicinal and exhilarating. By this emblem Jesus directs us to himself, who, in the general estimation of 4 wicked world, has no form nor comeliness in him that he should be desired; yet, in himself, is the plant of renown. He possessed celestial fruit in moral life; and especially as a Mediator, being pressed in the wine-press of his Father's wrath, yields the richest wine of salvation to the vilest of sinners. Look to Calvary; on that spot grew this living vine; there the fruit of pardon, peace, and everlasting life are found in richest abundance! Though cut down by death, the vine yet lives in that better paradise where the fruit thereof is ever new. It is worthy of attention that Jesus asserts himself to be the true vine, probably to distinguish himself from those characters frequently described in the ancient writings of Scripture by the empty vine, and the wild vine; but especially as he is that vine, that blessed Saviour, appointed by the Father, and yielding such precious fruit, that whosoever receives thereof finds true peace and happiness in God, and in the issue shall by no means be deceived of an hope of everlasting blessedness in heaven.
Presuming these remarks to be familiar with you, I shall now claim your attention to a few select observations on the nature of that UNION which subsists between CHRIST and his Church, including every INDIVIDUAL MEMBER, which is suggested under the emblem of VINE AND BRANCHES, sincerely wishing it may prove instructive to all who hear.
1. You will doubtless acknowledge that the stock, or stem of the vine, does in itself virtually possess every bud, bough, branch, or fruit, afterwards to be produced; and also that the vine must certainly exist prior to any branch that should appear upon it. This teaches us the truth which we so often read in plain language, Chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world ; and grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. This, no doubt, was the act of the Father,
po whom Jesus calls the Husbånd-man, and to whom Jesus said, concerning the people he should redeem and en joy, Thine they were, and thou gavest them me. Here, as in the vine ani the branch, Christ and his people have an early union. And as the stock progressively produces buds and branches until it be in a state of perfection; so Jesus, under different administrations, the Old and New Testament, in various climes, and at different periods of time, puts forth his people to view, by regeneration and conversion, and will continue so: to do until every individual soul in him shall be made manifest, and this true and living vine be eternally complete in all its branches. The branch, therefore, does not mo stand indebted to the vine for its existence, than every real Christian to his union in Christ: for his state, comfort, and prospects, as a child of God. No soul regenerated, none brought to spiritual life, but by virtue of Christ's union and vivifying power. Every believer, grace, virtue, gift, all proceed from Jesus, as the bud, the blossom, and the branch proceed from the stem. While this humbles the sinner, and makes him a debtor to grace, it exalts the character of Jesus, and lays a sure foundation for gratitude and praise. This view of the union between Christ and his people is a
source of great encouragement to Churches, and to Ministers in unsuccessful times of preaching the Gospel, and should lead them to look to Jesus, the true vine, to put forth his own buds and branches ; possessing at the same time a conviction that those who may profess christianity, without union with Christ, will prove unfruitful indeed. Equal consolation may be derived from this subject by the Christian, under all his darkness of mind and imperfections of heart. Look to Jesus; rooted and grounded in him you will feel the influence of this life flowing into your soul, as the vital sap of the vine to the branch; and thus you will be more abundantly fruitful in every good word and work.
2. THE VINE AND BRANCHES MAKE ONE TREE. This observation conducts our mind to the Scriptures, in which we learn that Christ and his people are one. In other language, they are flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone. I ascend, said Jesus, unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. As one vital sap runs through the whole tree, and, by consequence, makes every bud, leaf, bough, and branch, one with itself; 50 it is with Christ and his people; one salvation, one interest, one life, one hope, and all directed to one grand end-the glory of God! It is also worthy your observation, that the vine and branches are one in a state of suffering. Let the lightning flash, the thunder roar, and the tempest beat, whatever may be suffered by the branches, is equally felt by the vine. Hence it is so excellently said by the prophet, In all their afflictions he is afflicted. As Jesus and his people are one in this life, so they will be one in the next. For this Jesus prayed to his Father, that they all may be one, as thou Father ert in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made pers fect in one. Glorious union! Let our souls experience it in time, and we will praise the Lord for it in eternity!
3. VINE AND BRANCHES GROW IN THE SAME SOIL. Jesus lay in the bosom of his Father, and by virtue of union with him, as his branches, draws virtue from the same source for their existence, fruitfulness, and honour. God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Thou hast loved them, said Jesus to his Father, as thou hast loved me. I have declared thy word, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. Remember, therefore, that this is the source from whence all the joys and b'essedness of the Christian is derived. To this we must stand indebted, or remain as unfruitful as the branch that is severed from the vine, and only fit for destruction. Let us then listen to the voice of Jesus, in the 9th verse of this chapter, As the Father hath loved me, 80 have I loved you : continue ye in my love.
4. THE BRANCHES BEAR THE SAME FRUIT IN KIND WITH THE VINE. It cannot be otherwise. Wisdom is justified of her children. The life of Christ is manifest in us. . The truth, as it is' in Jesus; the temper he discovered to his friends and his foes; and especially, his moral obedience, in a proportionate degree will be found in all his disciples. And I cannot but add, that as the flavour of the grape is derived from the virtue, and designates the quality of the vine, so the sentiments, temper, and obedience of those who are disciples of Jesus indeed, will always bear the rich flavour of his life and character, in opposition to the wild grapes of heathen morality, or the sour grapes of error. Never let us forget that Jesus hath said, He that abideth in my