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THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST REPRESENTED AS BRANCHES OF THE VINE.
JOHN XV. 3-8.
3. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4. "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.
5. "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."
OUR Lord here pursues the example which He had begun, when He described Himself as the vine, and His disciples as the branches of the vine. He had shown how the husbandman pruneth the promising branch: clears it from what might impair its fruitfulness. Ye, He proceeds to say, are already clean, "purged from your old sins," through the word which I have spoken to you. And now what remains is this, that ye abide in me and I in you. On this all depends. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Here He speaks of the Apostles as being already branches of the true vine. Let us consider how they had become so. The branches of a tree are connected with it, and
belong to it in two ways. Either they spring naturally from it, and grow out of it; or they are grafted into a stem to which they had not before belonged. The Apostles did not naturally belong to the stock of Christ: for He is of God, and they were of the race of Adam. It is the same with all Christians. None are made
branches of the true vine by birth or origin. We are expressly assured, that they who do become such," are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." They are taken from their wild stock, the stock of Adam, and grafted upon the true vine, the tree of life, the tree of fruitfulness. The Father, who is the husbandman, by His Spirit takes the soul from the stock to which it belonged by nature, a corrupt tree which cannot bring forth good fruit; and grafts it upon the stock of Christ, which gives it another and a better nature, and enables it to bear the fruit of righteousness and holiness. So in the case of Peter, when he replied to the question of his Lord, "Whom say ye that I am? Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is distinctly affirmed that "flesh and blood had not revealed this to him, but the Father which is in heaven." And so (Acts xvi. 14) when a certain woman, named Lydia, believed, and was baptized into the faith of Christ, we are also assured, that the Lord opened her heart, "that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul."
1 Matt. xvi. 16, 17.
These instances may also instruct us as to the manner of the union. When a scion is united to a tree, means must be used to connect the one with the other. And so in this spiritual husbandry. That which is used by the Spirit of God, that which is needful to unite the man with Christ, is faith. Baptism is the outward form by which the union is signified and shown: and faith is the inward principle of adherence. It was faith which Philip required of the Ethiopian, whom he had instructed in the truths of the Gospel. When the stranger said, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?"? Why may I not be grafted into the vine which thou hast been displaying to me? Philip replies, "If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God." And he baptized him.
It is thus that faith acts, and connects the young and tender scion with the parent stem: acts in uniting the soul with Christ. disciple believes within himself, or, in the case of infant baptism, the parent believes in his behalf, that it is good for him to be united with Christ Jesus. For the stock to which he belongs by birth, is a corrupted stock, condemned before God, producing evil fruit: and the end of such trees is to be burned: "every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire." But the branches which are grafted into Christ do not perish: they bring forth the 2 Acts viii. 36.
fruits of the Spirit here on earth, and hereafter God removes them and transplants them into his heavenly kingdom. This the man believes: the Apostles believed it: the Ethiopian believed it: and therefore they desired to be separated from their naturally bad and perishing stock, and to be engrafted as willing scions upon the stem of Christ, who is the true vine.
Let all remember that the substance of these thoughts must pass through every mind, and form the ground of union with the Redeemer. "In Adam all die," and therefore all must clear and separate themselves from his race, or they too must die. But "there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." "Whoever liveth and believeth in Him, shall never die." Every soul, therefore, must be a branch grafted into Him, that it may live and flourish for ever in His vineyard. Such is the faith which must be active in the heart, and make it adhere closely to the stem, and manifest both its union and its vigor by the goodness and abundance of the fruit it bears.
For we learn from what follows, first, that all fruitfulness depends on this adherence: and next, that all proof of adherence must be sought from fruitfulness.
6. "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.
7. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
The intention of the husbandman, who grafts a new scion upon a stem, is, that it should bear fruit. The intention of God in sending Jesus Christ into the world is the same. He sent Him to bless men, in turning them away from their iniquities. His Spirit unites the soul to Christ, that it may be changed, and purified, and renewed. And the effect of that union is to supersede the original nature, the carnal mind, which is death, and to produce "a new heart, and a right spirit," which shall exhibit the fruits of temperance, and goodness, and meekness, and brotherly kindness, and godliness, and purity. Herein is the Father glorified. For this purpose were they grafted in, that they might bear these fruits. So are they Christ's disciples. But if they bear them not, they abide not in Him. The proof of the branch belonging to the tree, is its bearing fruit of the same nature as the tree. "Ye shall know them by their fruits." The qualities of the parent stem must be the qualities of the branch too. Can a heart be grafted on the stock of Christ, who himself so loved the world, that He laid down His life to redeem it; and that heart bear no brotherly kindness, no charity? Can a heart be grafted on the stock of Christ, who set such an example of long suffering, of gentleness, of meekness, and yet bear no fruit of a like kind? Is it not patient under injuries, nor gentle, nor meek, nor lowly? Can a heart be grafted into the stock of Christ, whose whole life was one course of