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“Their grapes are grapes of gall;
They were of a perishable nature; originating with man, they were destined to share his fate. They were carefully hedged round, high towers were placed on the walls, and watchmen stationed there, but all to no end. They resemble not the true Vine,' planted by the great Husbandman, that will live through all time, and flourish through eternity. There we trust to see it in all its pristine beauty, and to pluck living fruit from its branches forever.
III. The Branches. But Jesus not only speaks of himself as the true Vine, and of the Husbandman, but he also speaks of the branches. It is evident, from the whole conversation of our Lord, that they were his immediate disciples. Calmet has this view of the subject. Jesus does not merely represent himself under the metaphor of a Vine, in the more confined sense of a teacher, but in the more exalted and comprehensive one of the Messiah, sent from heaven to found a new kingdom on earth.
He considers his apostles as the branches in him, not merely as disciples and friends, but as deputies and assistants, chosen and called by him to found and extend his kingdom.'
The Divine Instructor here points out three things: 1. The disciples must abide in him.
2. If they did not, they would be cast forth as useless branches.
3. If they remained in the Vine, they would be purged, that they might bring forth more fruit.
1. The disciples must abide in Jesus. This is enforced in a very beautiful manner.
·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.'
Clarke says, 'For as the branch, however good in itself, cannot bear fruit from itself through its own juice, which it has already derived from the tree, and can be no longer supported than it continues in union with the parent stock; neither can ye, unless ye abide in me. As the branch partakes of the nature of the tree, is nourished by its juice, and lives by its life; so ye must be made partakers of my divine nature, be wise in my wisdom, powerful in my might, and pure through my holiness.'
2. If the disciples did not abide in Jesus, they would be cast forth as useless branches. They would wither, and men would gather them, and cast them into the fire to be burned. By this we are to understand, that, if they forsook their Master and his cause, they would share the fate of his enemies. Clarke, in his Commentary, gives full scope to his imagination respecting the burning. It signifies, in his view, 'to be eternally tormented with the devil and his angels, and with all those who have lived and died in their iniquity.' What a contrast, when compared with the blessed and interesting conversation of Jesus with his disciples! The Saviour does not intimate any other destruction than that which would take place in the present world. They would be cast out of the kingdom, as had been before said of the unbelieving Jews: "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his
kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire : there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. But all such language had reference to scenes and events that were to take place in that nation, and during that generation, as might be abundantly proved, were it not a departure from our main subject.
3. If the disciples remained in the Vine, they would be purged, that they might bring forth more fruit. Clarke criticises this passage of our Lord in the following manner: "The branch which bears not fruit, the husbandman taketh IT AWAY; but the branch that beareth fruit he taketh away FROM IT, that is, he prunes away excrescences, and removes everything that might hinder its increasing fruitfulness. The word intens, I take away, signifies ordinarily to cleanse, purge, purify; but is certainly to be taken in the sense of pruning or cutting off. Our Lord undoubtedly intended to carry out his illustration by a reference to the manner of cultivating the vine. It is thus described by Bochart: 'A triple produce from the same vine is gathered every year. In March, after the vine has produced the first clusters, they cut away from the fruit that wood which is barren. In April, a new shoot, bearing fruit, springs from the branch that was left in March, which is also lopped; this shoots forth in May, loaded with the latter grapes. Those clusters which blossomed in March, come to maturity and are fit to be gathered in August; those which blossomed in
April are gathered in September; and those which blossomed in May must be gathered in October.'
How beautiful, how interesting, are the parables of our Lord! How simple, yet how majestic! How pure and excellent. How wonderfully adapted to the human understanding! They contain a rich fund of instruction for all ages. Like the vine, to which Jesus compared himself, they afford living fruit to all who will go to them. Well might those who heard the great Teacher, exclaim, 'Surely man never spake like this man.'
As the branch ever turns to the vine for support, so let us turn to Jesus. Let us give him our hearts and purest affections. In this way, we may show to others that we still abide as fruitful branches in the true Vine.'
Amen and amen.
Jesus saith unto Thomas, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.'
John xiv. 6.
In order to see the propriety and beauty of this title, it will be necessary to bring before the mind the occasion which called it forth. It occurred during the thrilling incidents connected with the Last Supper. Jesus had withdrawn from the world, and had sought repose among the quiet circle of his disciples. With a prophetic eye, he saw the approaching sufferings of his little flock. Even then, the skies were gathering blackness, and the storm was ready to burst upon their devoted heads. In their midst, sat he who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What an interesting moment! Soon he was to be betrayed, even by one of that number who sat with him. Already had the plan been laid. The enemies of the cross stood ready to spring upon him like the hungry wolf upon the tender lamb! How could so much perfidy and cruelty dwell in the heart of one whom Jesus had chosen for a companion and a friend! What is baser, what is more cruel, in our sinful and dark world, than treachery? From an enemy we ma fly, but who can elude a treacherous friend? In what an eloquent manner does the Psalmist present this before the mind in speaking of Ahithophel : 'For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then