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God which trieth our hearts; for neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloke of covetousness, God is witness.”
And whilst declaring that the Gospel came not unto them in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance, he rejoiced, that they received the word, which they heard of him, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh in them that believe.
Thus I am taught, that whilst the ambassadors of Christ are willing to spend and be spent in the blessed work of proclaiming the Gospel of peace ; it is God alone who can give efficacy to the word of his grace, according to the purpose of his own will; for his counsel shall stand and he will do all his pleasure.
Let me then learn to cease from man. May all my expectations be from God, whose power can change the heart, and who can form a people unto himself, who shall shew forth his praise.
Lord, preserve me from transient feelings and momentary impressions. Give me a deep and an abiding conviction of the evil of sin ; a growing love for the blessed Saviour ; and an increasing relish for holy duties.
May I be rooted and grounded in love; stablished and built up in Christ; and thus enabled to hold the beginning of my confidence stedfast unto the end.
The habitual frame of my heart, and the daily tenor of my life, will then prove the genuineness of my faith ; and keep me, through the power of the indwelling Spirit, from those awful falls, which bring such misery on false professors, and cause so many to stumble, and forsake the right way of the Lord.
Give me, O! Lord, that holy fear,
Guide me along the narrow way;
O! for a seraph's tongue to speak
XXXV. ON UNION TO CHRIST.
How beautiful is our Saviour's parable of the vine. It illustrates in the most convincing manner this great truth; "that he who hath the Son hath life; and he who hath not the Son of God, hath not life.”
We have in this parable a striking view of the true church of Christ. It grows out of Jesus the true vine; hangs upon him; and derives all its nourishment and fruitfulness from him, just as the branches do from the parent stem.
Till the soul be united to Christ by faith, it cannot produce one fruit of the Spirit; any more than a branch can bear fruit of itself, when severed from the vine.
A soul out of Christ, and a branch cut off from the parent stem, must be alike barren and withered. 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 perseverance. “ 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. '“ 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 deceiving 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