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Hence it is evident, that before the great act of justification by faith, that spiritual engrafting of the soul into Christ, there can be no holy fruits in the heart or life. By this gracious operation of the Holy Spirit, the sinner becomes a living branch in the true vine; a part of Christ's mystical body, and immediately receives spiritual nourishment and strength; for “ without me," saith Christ, “ye can do nothing."
But we read of barren branches in him, which are taken away. These are nominal professors of the Gospel, which abound in the visible church. They become members of the outward church, by the ordinance of baptism ; but being destitute of true faith, they yield none of the fruits of righteousness to the glory of God. These characters form the great bulk of the people in nations, denominated Christian.
They may be called branches in Christ, considering the church in its present condition, as represented by fruitful and barren branches, by wheat and tares, by good and bad fishes, by wise and foolish virgins, in the several parables of our blessed Lord. These barren branches easily fall off in time of temptation. Being only attached to Christ by the slender thread of an outward profession, they are soon blown away by the stormy winds of persecution. Like Demas, they forsake Christ, either through the fear of man, or the love of this present evil world.
But what says our blessed Lord ? “Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he taketh away." The Almighty Husbandman at length cuts them off in his providence, by the hand of death. But, ah! where are they cast ? “ Into the fire of hell, to be burned !"
0! how should this awaken all my fears and apprehensions, lest I should be found at the last to
have been only a barren branch: full indeed of the leaves of profession, and the worthless fruit of headknowledge and party zeal ; but destitute of those heavenly graces of humility, love, and purity, which prove the reality of an union to Jesus.
“Every branch in me," said our divine Saviour, " that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bear more fruit.” Thus, the pruning knife of affliction is applied to the true branches, to cut off all their exuberances, and to render them more abundant in the fruits of holiness.
Hence it is worthy of remark; that the very trials which take away the unfruitful branches, do, by a skilful operation of spiritual husbandry, promote the fertility of those branches which derive their nourishment by a vital union to the parent stem. This blessedness is closely connected with perse
“ Abide in me, and I in you." There must be a constant abiding in Christ, till the hour of death, otherwise there can be no perpetuity of fruitfulness. Let a branch be in the vine for a hundred years, and every year be loaden with fruit, yet if it be severed at the last, it must wither and die.
So our union to Christ must be perpetual. Being once in him, we must abide in him, or all our fruitfulness will be at an end. 66 He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me, or severed from me, ye can do nothing."
How careful then I ought to be, lest I am deceiv. ing myself with mere temporary feelings and impressions. Nothing will abide but true faith. Nothing but grace can endure unto the end.
What sweet privileges are connected with this union, and this fruitfulness.
“ Herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.” Thus the more fruit we bear, the more God is glorified. What wonderful condescension !
* So shall ye be my disciples.” This fruitfulness proves us to be the genuine disciples of the Lord Jesus.
“ Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Our prayers will then be graciously heard and answered.
“ As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.” Thus, if fruitful believers, we shall through eternity enjoy the Saviour's constant love.
These beautiful sayings of Jesus, are closed by an exhortation to perseverance: “Continue ye in my love."
Thus Christ is all and in all to his believing people. He is the true vine, from whom proceeds all the grace, which, flowing through the branches, produces fertility and beauty. He is also the Sun of righteousness, whose bright and fostering beams cause the. trees of righteousness to abound in fruitfulness.
Every image is thus used by the divine Spirit, when guiding the pen of inspiration, to set forth the all-sufficiency both of the power and grace of Jesus.
As there is no spiritual life separate from him, so without him there is no blessedness in time or eternity. In him
are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” In him “ dwelleth the fulness of the godhead bodily.” Are any chosen unto salvation ? “They are chosen in him before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love." Are any adopted into the family of God? It is “by Jesus Christ according to the good pleasure of his will.” Do any receive pardon ? It is “through his blood according to the riches of his grace."
How great then is the love of God, in thus giving his well-beloved Son to die for us ; that through his
precious death the cross, he might save us from sin and hell.
But, O! my soul-how great soever the love of God to perishing sinners may be-how rich soever the promises of mercy-how glorious soever the inheritance of the saints; what will all this avail, if thou art destitute of that faith, without which it is impossible to please God; and of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord !
I would ask myself with all seriousness, as in the presence of that God, who searcheth the heart and trieth the reins; have I received the Lord Jesus into my heart by a humble, loving faith ?
His name is as ointment poured forth, healing the wounded conscience, and shedding a rich fragrance through the soul. But have I felt the deadly , wound, which sin has made ?
Have I with joy received the atonement, and thus obtained peace through believing ?
I may have a knowledge of the way of salvation, but have I been brought into this way by the Spirit of truth, and am I walking therein by faith ?
Do I now experience the power of the cross, in the crucifixion of my lusts, and the mortification of every sinful desire ?
Do I know Christ in the power of his resurrection; being raised from a death in sin, to a life of righteousness ?
“ As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Am I daily led by the Spirit, through the light of the revealed word, into a saving acquaintance with Jesus Christ, as my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption ?
“ If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Have I experienced a spiritual change in my understanding, will, and affections ? Are my views, purposes, motives, desires, inclinations, and pursuits
quite different from what they once were? Can it be said in the strong language of Scripture, that “I am born again"? Is the change visible to others ? Is it felt by myself ?
Am I devoted to the service of God; ardent in my love to the Saviour, and anxious for the happiness of all around me? Are my religious views and feelings thus influential, pervading, like the hidden sap, all the branches of personal and relative duties ?
The doctrines of the Gospel are practical in their tendency. They at once humble and elevate. Like rays emanating from the sun, they enlighten, warm, cheer, and fructify. Shine then, blessed Saviour, with thy bright beams of grace into my heart. Preserve me from every thing that is false and insincere. Let thy work be deep and abiding.
Nothing can uphold me but thy sustaining grace. Without thee I am like the chaff before the wind; like a withered branch ready to be carried away by
Abide in me, blessed Lord, that I may abide in thee. Unite me to thyself, and never leave me nor forsake me; then shall I praise thee with unceasing hallelujahs, when my happy spirit shall be transplanted to the Paradise above.
Jesus, thou true and living vine,
Unite my soul to thee; 0! let my barren wither'd heart, A fruitful scion be.
Too long, alas ! my guilty soul
A fruitless branch hath been; Fit fuel for the eternal fire,
The slave of lust and sin.
I now through sov'reign grace, This blessed union know, From whence all peace and pardon too,
And endless glories grow.