THE vine is of all trees the most useless unless it bears fruit. You can make hardly anything of it; you would scarcely be able to cut enough wood out of a vine to hang a pot upon; you cannot turn it into furniture, and barely could you use it in the least degree for building purposes. It must either bear fruit, or else it must be consumed in the fire. The branches of the vine that bear no fruit are necessarily cut off, and they are used, as I have seen them used in the South of France many a time, in little twisted bundles for kindling the fire. They burn very rapidly, so there is soon an end of them, and then they are gone.
The vine is constantly used in Scripture as a picture of the nominal Church of Christ; so, like the vine, we must either bring forth fruit or we shall be accounted as good for nothing. We must serve God, we must bring forth, from our very soul, love to God and service to Him as the fruit of our renewed nature, or else we are useless, worthless, and shall only abide our time, and then we shall be cut down to be burned. Our end must be destruction if our life be not fruitful. This gives a very solemn importance to our lives, and it should make each of us seriously ask, “Am I bringing forth fruit unto God? Have I brought forth fruits meet for repentance? For if not, I must, by-and-by, feel the keen edge of the Vine-dresser’s knife, and I shall be taken away from any sort of union that I now have with the Church which is Christ’s vine, and be flung over the wall as a useless thing whose end is to be burned.”
We must bear fruit, or we shall certainly perish; and we cannot have fruit unless we have Christ, we must be knit to Christ, vitally one with Him, just as a branch is really, after a living fashion, one with the stem. It would be no use to tie a branch to the stem of the vine; that would not cause it to bring forth fruit. It must be joined to it in a living union, so must you and I be livingly joined to Christ. Do you know, by experience, what that expression means? For, if you do not know it by experience, you do not know it at all. No man knoweth what life is but the one who is himself alive, and no man knoweth what union to Christ is but he who is himself united to Christ. We must become one with Christ by an act of faith; we, must be inserted into Him as the graft is placed in the incision made in the tree into which it is to be grafted. Then there must be a knitting of the two together, a vital junction, a union of life, and a flowing of the sap, or else there cannot be any bearing of fruit. Again, I say, what a serious thing this makes our life to be! How earnest should be our questioning of ourselves! “For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart;” and so may there be about this matter. Let each one of us ask “Am I bearing fruit?
I am not unless I am vitally united to Christ. I have openly professed that I am in Christ, but am I bringing forth fruit unto His honor and glory?”
I think I hear someone say, “I hope I have begun to bring forth some fruit, but it is very little in quantity, and it is of very poor quality; and I do not suppose that the Lord Jesus will hardly stoop to notice it.” Well, now, listen to what the text says; it is the Heavenly Bridegroom, it is Christ Himself, who speaks to His spouse, and bids her come into the vineyard, and look about her. For, saith He, “the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.” So, you see, there was some fruit, though it could only be spoken of as “the tender grape.” Some read the passage, “The vines in blossom give forth fragrance;” others think it refers to the grape just as it begins to form. It was a poor little thing, but the Lord of the vineyard was the first to spy it out; and if there is any little fruit unto God upon anyone, our Lord Jesus Christ can see it. Though the berry be scarcely formed, though it be only like a flower which has just begun to knit, He can see the fruit, and He delights in that fruit.
Another tender grape is, a humble faith in Jesus Christ. The man, perhaps, has got no farther than to say, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief!”
Then there comes another tender grape, and that is, a genuine change of life. The man has evidently turned right about; he is not looking the way he used to look, and he is not living as he used to live. At first he fails, and perhaps fails a good many times, like a child who is learning to walk, and has many a tumble; but it will never walk if it does not tumble a bit.
Another very blessed fruit of spiritual life in the soul is, “secret devotion.”
The man never prayed before; he went sometimes to a place of worship, but he did not care much about it. Now, you see that he tries to get alone for private prayer as often as he can.
What is the Lord’s estimate of these tender grapes? What does He think of that sorrow for sin, that little faith, that humble trust in His atoning sacrifice, that earnest attempt to live a changed life, that weariness of frivolity, that private prayer and study of the Scriptures, that eager desire for more grace, and that childlike love? What does the Lord think of all this?
Well, first, He thinks so much of it that He calls His Church to come and look at it. Look at the verses that precede our text “My Beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.”
Then He says, “The vines with the tender grape give a good smell.” Of what do they smell?
Well, they smell of sincerity . You say, “That young man does not know much, but he is very sincere.” How many do I see, who come to make a confession of their faith in Christ, who do not know this doctrine, or have not had that experience, but they are very sincere! I can tell that they are genuine by the way they speak; they often make such dreadful blunders, theologically, that I know they have not learnt it by rote, as they might get up a lesson They talk straight out of their loving but ignorant hearts, and I like that they should do so, for it shows how true they are in what they say; and our Lord Jesus always loves sincerity. There is no smell so hateful as the smell of hypocrisy; a religious experience that is made to order, religious talk such as some indulge in, which is all cant, is a stench in the nostrils of God. The Lord save us from it! But these vines with the tender grape give forth the sweet smell of sincerity.
Next, there is about these young believers a sweet smell of heartiness. Oh, how hearty they generally are, how earnest, how lively! By-and-by, some of the older folks talk about the things of God as if they were worn threadbare, and there was nothing of special interest in them; but it is not so with these new-born souls, everything is bright and fresh, they are lively, and full of earnestness, and Jesus loves that kind of spirit.
There is sure to be also about these young Christians the sweet smell of zeal; and, whatever may be said against zeal, I will take up the cudgels for it as long as I live. In the work of God, we cannot do without fire. When I see our young men and young women full of zeal for God’s glory, I say, “God bless them! Let them go ahead.” Some of the old folk want to put a bit in the mouths of these fiery young steeds, and to hold them in; but I trust that I shall ever be on their side, and say, “No, let them go as fast as they like. If they have zeal without knowledge, it is a deal better than having knowledge without zeal; only wait a bit, and they will get all the knowledge they need.”
These young believers have another sweet smell: they are teachable, ready to learn, willing to be taught from the Scriptures and from those whose instructions God blesses to their souls. There is also another delicious smell about them, and that is, they are generally very joyful. While they are singing, some dear old brother, who has known the Lord for fifty years, is groaning; what is the matter with the good man? I wish that he could catch the sweet contagion of the early joy of those who have just found the Savior. There is something delightful in all joy when it is joy in the Lord, but there is a special brightness about the delight of those who are newlyconverted.
Some people seem to think that none but advanced Christians are worth looking after, but our Lord is not of that opinion. “Oh, it was only a lot of girls that joined the church,” said somebody. “A lot of girls?” That is not the way that our Lord Jesus Christ speaks about His children. He calls them King’s daughters; and let them be called so. “They were only a pack of boys and young men.” Yes, but they are the material of which old men are made; and boys and young men, after all, are of much account in the Master’s esteem. May we always have many such.