Ephesians 5:9
Great Texts of the Bible
The Fruit of the Light

For the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.—Ephesians 5:9.

This is one of the cases in which the Revised Version has done service by giving currency to an unmistakably accurate and improved reading. That which stands in our Authorized Version, “the fruit of the Spirit,” seems to have been a correction made by some one who took offence at the violent metaphor, as he conceived it, that “light” should bear “fruit,” and desired to tinker the text so as to bring it into verbal correspondence with another passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, where “the fruits of the Spirit” are enumerated. But the reading “the fruit of the light” has not only the preponderance of manuscript authority in its favour, but is also preferable because it preserves a striking image, and is in harmony with the whole context.

The Apostle has just been exhorting his Ephesian friends to walk as “children of light,” and before he goes on to expand and explain that injunction he interjects this parenthetical remark, as if he would say, To be true to the light that is in you is the sum of duty, and the condition of perfectness, “for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” That connexion is entirely destroyed by the substitution of “Spirit.” The whole context, both before and after the text, is full of references to the light as working in the life; and two verses after it we read about “the unfruitful works of darkness,” an expression which evidently looks back to the text.

Calvin showed his judgment and independence in preferring this reading to that of the received Greek text; similarly Bengel, and most of the later critics. The sentence is parenthetical, and contains a singular and instructive figure. It is one of those sparks from the anvil in which great writers not infrequently give us their finest utterances—sentences that get a peculiar point from the eagerness with which they are struck off in the heat and clash of thought, as the mind reaches forward to some thought lying beyond. The clause is an epitome, in five words, of Christian virtue, whose qualities, origin and method are all defined. It sums up exquisitely the moral teaching of the Epistle. Galatians 5:22-23 (“the fruit of the Spirit”) and Php 4:8 (“Whatsoever things are true,” etc.) are parallel to this passage, as Pauline definitions, equally perfect, of the virtues of a Christian man. This has the advantage of the others in brevity and epigrammatic point.

Great Christian teachers have spoken of the virtues of the heathen as “splendid sins.” But Christ and His Apostles never said so. He said: “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold.” And they said: “In every nation he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” The Christian creed has no jealousy in regard to human excellence. Whatsoever things are true and honourable and just and pure, wherever and in whomsoever they are found, our faith honours and delights in them, and accepts them to the utmost of their worth. But then it claims them all for its own—as the fruit of the one “true light which lighteth every man.” Wherever this fruit appears, we know that that light has been, though its ways are past finding out. Through secret crevices, by subtle refractions and multiplied reflections, the true light reaches many a life lying far outside its visible course.1 [Note: G. G. Findlay, The Epistle to the Ephesians, 324.]


The Fruit-producing Light

1. In the context the Apostle has been speaking of “light”; here he boldly says, “the light,” and the change of expression is not accidental. He wishes to point to some specific source from which all light flows. And this is quite clear from the expression “Now are ye light in the Lord”—a phrase which implies that the light which he has in view is not natural to men, but is the result of the entrance into their darkness of a new element. The words evidently imply that the light which blesses and hallows humanity is no diffused glow, but is all gathered and concentrated into one blazing centre, from which it floods the hearts of men. Or, to put away the metaphor, he is here asserting that the only way by which any man can cease to be, in the doleful depths of his nature, darkness in its saddest sense, is by opening his heart through faith, that into it there may rush, as the light ever does where an opening—be it only a single tiny cranny—is made, the light which is Christ, and without whom is darkness.

How terrible is the thought of blind darkness, and most of all to a painter, who truly sees; whereas most men are purblind, while they think they see the glories of this marvellous world. But worse infinitely is the blindness of man’s spirit, often wilfully barring out every avenue by which Light might enter. That word I know by experience is true. “The entrance of Thy Word giveth Light”; and those who glory in their acquaintance with the discoveries of modern Science, and in Literature, Art, Music, and every sensuous pleasure, are feeding on husks, like the Prodigal, if their souls are estranged from God our Father and from the True Light of man, Jesus Christ.1 [Note: Life and Letters of Frederic Shields, 344.]

Jesus was the Light of the world, the Revealer of the Father, and, as the Revealer, the Giver of life to men. As the Light, He imparts new possibilities of life to those who otherwise were hopelessly dead in trespasses and sins. The Light of Christ enters the heart; and what is the result? Productiveness of a high and spiritual order in the life that is thus begotten and sustained: all that such a life brings forth is the fruit of that light. No man can keep that light to himself. The ordinary figure of the lamp placed upon the lampstand is a striking one. You do not put it under a bushel but on a lampstand. But that is not the only way in which light shows itself; you light a candle and it shines forth. But God lights a grain of corn and it grows up into a stalk, and develops an ear, and full corn in the ear; it is the light He has given to that grain of corn that results in its growth and in its development, and the ear of corn is the outshining of that light with which God’s sunshine has permeated that grain. As God causes His sun to shine upon every field which bears in it the seed that has been sown by the farmer, He is sowing light into that field so that the seed itself shall manifest that light which it has received in the development and multiplication of its own life, and in the warm glow which imparts wealth and glory to every harvest field. And so in the human heart, when the light of God through Jesus Christ enters it, there is a growth. You cannot conceal that light, it will show itself in fruits of light.2 [Note: D. Davies, Talks with Men, Women and Children, vi. 378.]

When Christ enters any human heart, he bears with Him a twofold light: first, the light of conscience, which displays past sin, and afterwards the light of peace, the hope of salvation. In Holman Hunt’s picture, “The Light of the World,” the lantern, carried in Christ’s left hand, is this light of conscience. Its fire is red and fierce; it falls only on the closed door, on the weeds which encumber it, and on an apple shaken from one of the trees of the orchard, thus marking that the entire awakening of the conscience is not merely to committed but to hereditary guilt. The light is suspended by a chain, wrapt about the wrist of the figure, showing that the light which reveals sin appears to the sinner also to chain the hand of Christ. The light which proceeds from the head of the figure, on the contrary, is that of the hope of salvation; it springs from the crown of thorns, and, though itself sad, subdued, and full of softness, is yet so powerful that it entirely melts into the glow of it, the forms of the leaves and boughs, which it crosses, showing that every earthly object must be hidden by this light, where its sphere extends.1 [Note: Ruskin, “Arrows of the Chace” (Works, xii. 329).]

2. The light is antecedent to the fruit. Christ first, conduct second. To begin with what should be second is an anachronism in morals, and will be sure to result in failure in practice. He is not a wise man who tries to build a house from the chimneys downwards. And to talk about making a man’s doings good before you have secured a radical change in the doer, by the infusion into him of the very life of Jesus Christ Himself, is to begin at the top story, instead of at the foundation. Many of us are trying to put the cart before the horse in that fashion. The people who, apart from Jesus Christ, and the entrance into their souls by faith of His quickening power, are seeking, some of them nobly, some of them sadly, and all of them vainly, to cure their faults of character, will never attain anything but a superficial and fragmentary goodness, because they have begun at the wrong end.

Light is the most essential condition of fruitfulness. Without light no vegetable or animal growth reaches perfection of colour or development. Rob the plant of its light, and you blanch it; rob any creature of the light, and you take out of him all colour and stamina. Any gardener will tell you that he may have all the heat that is necessary for an aromatic plant, and that shall enable it to blossom and put on a beautiful garment, so that it shall resemble the luxuriance with which it grows in its natural soil and under its native skies; but that when he has done all, when he has got his thermometer up into any temperature he chooses, there is little or no aromatic secretion. That in which the plant excels, that in which it finds its final meaning, is absent. To all appearance it is very much the same plant as in its native soil and light, and yet there is an all-important difference. Under these conditions it is not the fruit of light. It has heat, but light is something more than heat; and that is what is often wanting under this leaden sky of ours. As it is to be found in tropical regions, it is wanting in the most beautiful and perfect conservatory or hot-house that has ever been erected here. If men could only make a sun that should shine brightly through all our gloom—or, rather, if men could only rid themselves of the clouds that intercept the light of the sun that shines in fairer skies in the distant East—it would be all very well; but they cannot, and thus sunlight is wanting in sufficient quantities to ripen aromatic shrubs here, and nothing can compensate for that lack. All the artificial warmth that you can get fails to produce the same results.1 [Note: D. Davies, Talks with Men, Women and Children, vi. 376.]

Our definitions of a good man are as varied as the standpoints from which we look at him. We judge his goodness by his kindness, or honesty or veracity or purity or sobriety or some other minor morality for which he may be distinguished. And in our generous moods and magnanimous moments, when we want to exemplify the fine breadth of spirit by which all our thoughts are animated, we say, “He is not a Christian, but he is a good man!” Is he? If, as is the case, “God” and “good” come from the same root, should not the test go a step further back? Is he a God-man? God-man and good man should mean one and the same. And in so far as the virtues which the man possesses and exercises are God-like and God-inspired, every good man is a God-man—a man in whom God strives and struggles.2 [Note: R. Cynon Lewis, in Sermons by Welshmen, 298.]

The good man is not alone. Touch him, and you touch God. Help him, and your help is taken as if it were rendered to God Himself. This may give us an idea of the sublime life to which we are called—we live, and move, and have our being in God; we are temples, our life is an expression of Divine influence; in our voice there is an undertone of Divinity.3 [Note: Joseph Parker.]

3. Light has a wonderful vivifying power. It gives life and vigour. In the Arctic regions there are whole months during which the sun never rises, and if you want to know how valuable light is, you have just to think of the great difference between what you would see if you were there, and what you see around you in this land. If you go far enough north you find constant ice and snow; there are no beautiful flowers and fruits, no green grass to please the eye, no colours of any kind to gaze upon, but only an endless white winding sheet that seems to wrap up the dead earth. You have a barren wilderness in which, if you sought to dwell, you would be sure to die of cold and starvation. Contrast with all this the fields and the trees, and the hedges amongst which you live here, the bright blossoms that are in some of our gardens, and the sweet fruits that come in the autumn, and the sheaves that are gathered in the harvest time. What is the reason of this great difference? It is light. We get the light every day of the year, and it comes down to us in a more direct way than that in which it falls in the Arctic circle, so that we get more of its benefits.1 [Note: J. Aitchison, A Bag with Holes, 105.]

You may remember the beautiful lines in which Oliver Goldsmith depicts the heavenly spirit which the village pastor was able to maintain—

As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form

Swells from the vale and midway leaves the storm,

Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,

Eternal sunshine settles on its head.

So is it with the Christian disciple who through all the checkered scenes of his daily life walks in the light with God. The light of heaven in his heart shines out in his face, and surrounds him with a glory which is not the less real that earthly eyes cannot see it, as earthly trials cannot cause it for one moment to pale.2 [Note: J. P. Lilley, The Pathway of Light, 63.]

Birds are very fond of catching the last evening rays of a winter’s sun, and are always to be found in the afternoon on banks facing the west, or swinging, if there is no wind, on the topmost branch of the small fir-tree. On the mountains, too, all birds, as the sun gets low, take to the slopes that face the west; whilst in the morning they betake themselves to the eastern banks and slopes that meet his rays. No bird is to be found in the shade during winter, unless it has flown there for shelter from some imminent danger. This is very remarkable in the case of the golden plovers, who in the evening ascend from slope to slope, as each becomes shaded by the intervening heights, until they are all collected on the very last ridge which the sun shines upon.1 [Note: J. A. St. John, A Tour in Sutherlandshire.]

Grant us Thy light, that we may learn

How dead is life from Thee apart;

How sure is joy for all who turn

To Thee an undivided heart.

Grant us Thy light, when, soon or late,

All earthly scenes shall pass away,

In Thee to find the open gate

To deathless home and endless day.2 [Note: L. Tuttiett.]

4. We must welcome the light and bask in it. “You are light in the Lord,” the Apostle said; “walk as children of the light.” But his readers might ask: “What does this mean? It is poetry: let us have it translated into plain prose. How shall we walk as children of the light? Show us the path.” “I will tell you,” the Apostle answers—“the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Walk in these ways; let your life bear this fruit; and you will be true children of the light of God. So living, you will find out what it is that pleases God, and how joyful a thing it is to please Him (Ephesians 5:10). Your life will then be free from all complicity with the works of darkness. It will shine with a brightness, clear and penetrating, that will put to shame the works of darkness and transform the darkness itself. It will speak with a voice that all must hear, bidding them awake from the sleep of sin to see in Christ their light of life.”

How eagerly the sunflower turns to the sun! When the sun sets, and night falls, it folds up its leaves. But when the morning light comes once more, it opens up its bosom to its sweet, soft touch. Nor is this all; it keeps inclining towards the sun all day, following its course through the sky.

Florence Nightingale tells, in her Notes on Nursing, how the patients in the hospitals turn towards the light. The light is life-giving, health-giving. It seems to draw the sufferers to itself.3 [Note: A. G. Fleming, Silver Wings, 77.]

My purpose in writing to-day is to narrate a little and homely incident which occurred last night, and which touched me not a little, leaving you to draw the moral. Taking a “constitutional” before dinner in a drenching rain, I came up with a humble working man to whom I wished a “good evening.” The man walked alongside of me and began to talk, telling me the landlady of the house where he lived had died some little time ago. “That, my friend,” I said, “is a road we must all go.” “Yes,” he said, “all but those who shall be alive on the earth when He comes again.” The word interested me, and I replied, “I am glad to hear you speaking in that way.” We talked a little amid the pelting rain about Christ’s second coming, when he remarked, “Blessed are they who hear the joyful sound; they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance!” I noticed a strange, bright, happy light about the man’s homely face, which struck me; and I said, “You seem to be rejoicing in that joyful sound of the Gospel?” “Yes,” he said, “I am very happy, for I am trusting in my Saviour and humbly trying to serve Him. But some time ago,” he went on to say, “it was very different. For months and months I was in the most dreadful misery, believing myself a lost man for whom there was no mercy. I could get no peace night nor day. But one Sunday I happened to go into Saltcoats Parish Church, and something that the minister said—it was nothing very particular—came home as true. ‘That’s true,’ I said, ‘that’s true. I see that Christ is a Saviour.’ From that moment I trusted Him. I am trusting Him still, and with His grace I will to the end. Life is now all changed to me, and I am the very happiest of men. No doubt many a temptation came to me to go back to the old life. But He kept by me and brought me out of a horrible pit, and from the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock. And there I hope to remain for ever.”

He then went on to say that no sooner had he found this new joy than he said to himself: “I must try to do something for Him who has done so much for me.” And casting about for something to do, he remembered an old friend who had gone very far astray through drink, and was then lying on a sick-bed, and hinting about ending himself. He said he stuck to that man for days and nights till God honoured him in being the instrument of effecting a great change, and, like himself, he is now a humble and earnest Christian. I asked him how he had dealt with him. “I just tell’t him,” he said, with a happy smile, “to look to Christ, to follow Christ, to trust in Christ.” We shook hands together as we parted, mutually commending each other to God, and I ate my dinner with a happy heart. God be with you, dear Lady Frances, and give you all joy and peace in believing.1 [Note: Life of Dr. MacGregor of St. Cuthberts, 289.]

As the branch abides in the vine,

Through seasons delayed or long,

Till its clusters of purple shine

And the vintage echoes with song;

As tendril and leaf and flower

Partake the life of the tree,

And further its use and power,

In bondage of growth made free—

So, Lord, till life’s ultimate hour,

My soul would abide in Thee!

As the ripples move with the tide,

Far over the world-wide deep,

And, in union naught may divide,

One rhythm and purpose keep;

As the lightest eddies of foam

Are held in that vast decree,

And never a wave may roam—

So, Maker of shore and sea,

Desiring no lovelier home,

My spirit would move in Thee!

As fragrance grows in the rose,

Of petal and bloom a part,

A mystery no man knows

Enwrought in its innermost heart—

So, through unsearchable love,

A wave at one with Thy sea,

A branch Thine hand can approve,

A sweetness enshrined yet free,

My God, I would live and move

And have my being in Thee!1 [Note: Mary R. Jarvis.]


The Varieties of Fruit which the Light Produces

“In all goodness and righteousness and truth.” In Christ’s garden there forms in clustered beauty and perfectness the ripe growth of virtue, which in the sunshine of His love and under the freshening breath of His Spirit sends forth its spices and “yieldeth its fruit every month.” In it there abide goodness, righteousness, truth—these three; and who shall say which of them is greatest?

In St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians the fruit is divided into nine varieties, whereas in his letter to the Ephesians it is divided into three only. In the former the varieties are, “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”; in the latter they are “goodness, righteousness, and truth.” The former are more or less specific, the latter generic. In the Galatian list he is thinking of several Christian graces in detail; in the Ephesian list he brings out a few great outstanding graces which are inclusive of many more. But the geometrical axiom that the whole is greater than its parts and includes them does not cover the ground. We dare not limit the elements that go to the making of a Christian character to nine or nineteen, for the sweetest graces referred to elsewhere by the Apostle are omitted from both lists. Faith and love are in the chorus, but hope is not; peace and joy are in, but patience is not; and no spiritual chorus can be complete, or is destined to create the most perfect harmony by the due proportion of parts, which leaves out such seraphic songsters as Hope and Patience, to say nothing of other graces omitted, whose presence always makes music. St. Paul formed his chorus of graces on the Galatian scale some years before he wrote to the Ephesians, and so to omit none now, he writes “for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” No grace is left out here, for the fruit grows and ripens in every garden of goodness—the melody of the Spirit is heard in every righteous ring of the honest heart, and the harmony is like the harmony of heaven without a single discord when truth is added.

The different kinds of fruit are not to be separated, but should grow on the one stem, should blend in the one character. So many of us are good on one side and not on another. One side of our life is sweet, while another side is sour. Or we have pity, but no hope; we have tears, but no laughter. We are one-sided, lopsided, and acceptable fruit cannot be found on every branch. When we live clear out in the light of Christ, the genial heat and radiance will make every part fruitful, and on every side men will see the bounties of the Spirit.

Goodness is the adjustment of our relations to God, righteousness the adjustment of our relations to man, truth the adjustment of our relations to self. Goodness makes me worship, righteousness makes me act, truth makes me think. Goodness makes me look up, righteousness makes me look out, truth makes me look in. Goodness makes me see God, righteousness makes me see others, truth makes me see self. Goodness gives me a vision of the world above me, righteousness gives me a vision of the world without me, truth gives me a vision of the world within me. Truth is thus the man at the wheel, directing the ship, and bringing it safely to its haven.

As seen through the prism on which the rays of the sun fall, the “fruit of the light” is in all red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. These are loosely the primary colours, but strictly they are only three—red, yellow, and blue. These are the principal colours that we see tremble on the rainbow across the sky, but these primary colours are split up into many more as we watch them in their infinite variety in foliage and flower. And so the fruit of the inward light which is the result of a Spirit-filled soul, is in all goodness and righteousness and truth—the primary colours of the Kingdom, which divide themselves again into all the graces of the Christian life.1 [Note: R. Cynon Lewis, in Sermons by Welshmen, 297.]

For as a stone, so Sufi legends run,

Wooed by unwearied patience of the sun

Piercing its dense opacity, has grown

From a mere pebble to a precious stone,

Its flintiness impermeable and crass

Turned crystalline to let the sunlight pass;

So hearts long years impassive and opaque,

Whom terror could not crush nor sorrow break,

Yielding at last to love’s refining ray

Transforming and transmuting, day by day,

From dull grown clear, from earthly grown divine,

Flash back to God the light that made them shine.2 [Note: Jalaluddin Rumi, in A Little Book of Eastern Wisdom, 57.]

1. In all goodness.—Goodness seems to be used here in its narrower sense, just as the same Apostle uses it in the Epistle to the Romans in contrast with “righteousness,” where he says, “for a good man some would even dare to die.” There he means by “good,” as he does here by “goodness,” not the general expression for all forms of virtue and gracious conduct, but the specific excellence of kindliness, amiability, or the like. “Righteousness,” again, is that which rigidly adheres to the strict law of duty, and carefully desires to give every man what belongs to him, and to every relation of life what it requires. And “truth” is rather the truth of sincerity as opposed to hypocrisy and lies and shams than the intellectual truth as opposed to error.

(1) Christian goodness is the sanctification of the heart and its affections, renewed and governed by the love of God in Christ. It is, notwithstanding, seldom inculcated in the New Testament; because it is referred to its spring and principle in love. Goodness is love embodied. Now love, as the Christian knows it, is of God. “We love,” says the Apostle John, “because he first loved us … He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” This is the faith that makes good men—the best the world has ever known, the best that it holds now. Vanity, selfishness, evil temper and desire are shamed and burnt out of the soul by the holy fire of the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. In the warm, tender light of the cross the heart is softened and cleansed, and expanded to the widest charity. It becomes the home of all generous instincts and pure affections. So “the fruit of the light is in all goodness.”

Mr. Watts painted his Miltonic Satan with the face averted from the light of the Creator with whom he talked.1 [Note: M. S. Watts, George Frederic Watts, i. 97.]

The soul of goodness is love; for it is out of love that goodness issues, and it is in love that goodness culminates. There are other motives which incite to goodness, but they aid and foster, they do not create it. Without love there may be good actions, but there cannot be goodness; as a quality, goodness must be rooted in love. Most men are still so far from a true conception of love that they suspect it of certain inherent possibilities of weakness, and strive to steady and invigorate it by bringing to its aid the ideas of law and duty; not discerning that love carries in its heart a law far more searching and inexorable than any that was ever graven on tables of stone or written in statute-books, and that duty, in the sense of obligation to serve, is its daily life. The severity of Christ, the teacher of love, is more terrible than that of the sternest Old Testament lawgiver, because the test He applies not only tries conduct but searches motive. The law is satisfied when restoration is made or the penalty paid; it cannot go further. But to love, which searches the heart as with a lighted torch, these are only the external signs of repentance; it cannot rest short of a complete cleansing of the spirit. With a severity born of a passionate determination to make the best in every man supreme, it will accept nothing less than final and lasting purification.

No quality of the infinite love is more Divine than its ability to bear and to impose suffering; it would rather the loved one were slain than dishonoured; rather he were tortured than stained. In Mr. Watts’s beautiful picture of “Love and Life” Love is leading Life up the steep pathway, over the stones that bruise and pierce, with infinite gentleness but with inexorable purpose. For love can lead where law cannot drive, and love can win where law is powerless to force obedience. For love has resources with which law is not armed; it has the fellowship of burden-bearing and suffering. It asks no one to go where it is not ready to go itself. By its very nature it takes in the experience of one whom it strives to reclaim or correct, and in the anguish of the repentance which it compels it often sweats great drops of blood. Law declares the guilt of the world and imposes its penalty; love carries the consciousness of that guilt home to the deepest nature, compels not only the forsaking of the sin, but the re-birth, with all its pangs, of the soul of the sinner, and walks step by step through the humiliation and bitterness of repentance, restitution, and recovery. It shares the shame and anguish long after the law has run its course and is satisfied. It compels the guilty to confess and restore with an inexorableness more terrible than that of law itself; but it does not leave the offender in the dark; it goes to prison with him, wears the garb and does the work of punishment with him; and when he has cleansed himself, welcomes him back to life and duty when all faces are turned away.1 [Note: H. W. Mabie, The Life of the Spirit, 133.]

It is the blending of purity with gentleness that makes “goodness.” A good man is something more than a strictly righteous man or a strictly just man. There is a gentleness and grace to add a charm to what might otherwise be repellent in the strength and vigour of his convictions and life. A good man is a man who has strong convictions, and who, having them, has also graces that impart a beauty to them. The earth has a backbone of granite rock, but it does not project its granite rock in every spot of charming landscape. There, as a rule, it shows its gentleness and grace; and even when by mighty upheavals or convulsions it shows here and there its rocky ribs, it clothes them with some “half tone” of moss or lichen or foliage. So that, associated with the most rugged force, there is a gentle grace and beauty. It is only when we try the strength of the earth that we find the strength of backbone it has. And so in the case of the typical good man. Such are his gentleness and grace that it is only when men try the strength of his principles that they find the granite rock under all. The good man is the gentle man—gentle in the gentleness, and strong in the strength, of Christ.1 [Note: D. Davies, Talks with Men, Women and Children, vi. 379.]

I must, from time to time, remind you of what I have often recommended to you, and of what you cannot attend to too much: sacrifice to the Graces. The different effects of the same things, said or done, when accompanied or abandoned by them, is almost inconceivable. They prepare the way to the heart; and the heart has such an influence over the understanding that it is worth while to engage it in our interest. It is the whole of women, who are guided by nothing else; and it has so much to say even with men, and the ablest men too, that it commonly triumphs in every struggle with the understanding.2 [Note: Lord Chesterfield, Letters to his Son, i. 326.]

(2) “In all goodness”—goodness of every variety. The piety of one man is deep and silent like the broad winding river which carries peace and plenty to the country through which it passes; the piety of another is strong and demonstrative like the wind which drives the ship from one continent to the other with its weight of wealth and commerce; the piety of the third is modest and retiring like the violet which flourishes best in the shade, but whose fragrance is never hidden. And yet they are all the fruit of the light. The piety of Peter is the piety which is active, energetic, impulsive, impetuous, rushing down the hill like an Alpine torrent, or over the precipice like a mighty cataract. The piety of John and Mary is the piety of the meditative mystics, who lay the head on the Master’s breast to listen to the pulsations of His heart, or who sit at His feet to drink in His message and to catch every breeze that blows from the throne. The piety of the publican is the piety that dares not look up to heaven, and yet grows one of the sweetest fruits in the garden of God—humility. “The fruit of the light is in all goodness”—in the type that says nothing, and in the type that says everything, in the type that works, and in the type that waits.

A great many mistakes are made about amiability. A man may be amiable simply through mere want of interest or force; he may be so constituted that he really does not much care who is who or what is what. He may have a senile grin—call it a smile if you please—for anybody and for all persons alike,—a nice old man who never says a cross word, and never has a frown upon his face. That is not amiability. Here is a man who is naturally unamiable; he looks with a discriminating eye upon man and things; he is very passionate, fiery, self-asserting. Yet, by the grace of God, he is kept back; at times he shakes in the leash; he often seems as if he would break it and be away! Yet God’s hold upon him is such that he speaks gentle words, restrains terms of indignation and wrath, moderates his rising passion. There—though he cannot look very amiable, though he may have a grim face—is the amiable Man 1:1 [Note: Joseph Parker.]

“He went about doing good.” So we might say in our own age of two or three who have been personally known to us, “He or she went about doing good.” They are the living witnesses to us of His work. If we observe them we shall see that they did good because they were good—because they lived for others and not for themselves, because they had a higher standard of truth, and therefore men could trust them, because their love was deeper, and therefore they drew others after them. These are they of whom we read in Scripture that they bear the image of Christ until His coming again, and of a few of them that they have borne the image of His sufferings, and to us they are the best interpreters of His life. They too have a hidden strength which is derived from communion with the Unseen; they pass their lives in the service of God, and yet only desire to be thought unprofitable servants. Their way of life has been simple—they have not had much to do with the world. They may have been scarcely known, or not known until after their death; they may have had their trials too—failing health, declining years, the ingratitude of men—but they have endured as seeing Him who is invisible.2 [Note: Benjamin Jowett.]

2. This fruit is in all righteousness.—The principle of righteousness, fully understood, includes everything in moral worth, and is often used to denote in one word the entire fruit of God’s grace in man. For righteousness is the sanctification of the conscience. It is loyalty to God’s holy and perfect law. It is no mere outward keeping of formal rules, such as the legal righteousness of Judaism, no submission to necessity or calculation of advantages; it is a love of the law in a man’s inmost spirit; it is the quality of a heart one with that law, reconciled to it as it is reconciled to God Himself in Jesus Christ. At the bottom, therefore, righteousness and goodness are one. Each is the counterface and complement of the other. Righteousness is to goodness as the strong backbone of principle, the firm hand and the vigorous grasp of duty, the steadfast foot that plants itself on the eternal ground of the right and true and stands against a world’s assault. Goodness without righteousness is a weak and fitful sentiment: righteousness without goodness is a dead formality. He cannot love God or his neighbour truly who does not love God’s law; and he knows nothing aright of that law who does not know that it is the law of love.

There is nothing so terrible as the insistence of love on perfect righteousness. It cannot compromise; it is powerless to accept anything less, because it has a consuming desire to bring out the final touch of nobleness in the soul it loves. They have not known the divinest secret of love who have not suffered from its inflexible idealism, its inexorable determination to get the best and the most out of the loved one. Many a husband has rebelled in feeling against his wife’s faithful loyalty to his own noblest nature, and has come at last, in the clearer vision of his own growth, to reverence that insistence upon the best in aim, conduct, and habit as the very highest form of tenderness. It is not easy to live under the same roof with the ideal of what one ought to be and to do; but there comes a time, in such companionship, when the very roof is sacred because it has sheltered it. One must be good indeed before one can live at ease with a great love. For this reason Calvary is more awful than Sinai, and the patient sufferings of Christ more appalling than all the thunderings of the lawgivers. For love is not only all tenderness, forgiveness, and service; it is also all severity, sanity, duty, righteousness. It is far stronger and safer than law, because it is far more searching and inexorable.1 [Note: H. W. Mabie, The Life of the Spirit, 136.]

The rule of right, the symmetries of character, the requirements of perfection, are no provincialisms of this planet; they are known among the stars; they reign beyond Orion and the Southern Cross; they are wherever the universal Spirit is; and no subject mind, though it fly on one track for ever, can escape beyond their bounds. Just as the arrival of light from deeps that extinguish parallax bears witness to the same ether there that vibrates here, and its spectrum reports that one chemistry spans the interval, so does the law of righteousness spring from its earthly base and embrace the empire of the heavens the moment it becomes a communion between the heart of man and the life of God.1 [Note: J. Martineau, A Study of Religion, i. 26.]

One morning I walked with a friend out of the city of Geneva to where the waters of the lake flow with swift rush into the Rhone. And we were both greatly interested in the strange sight which has impressed so many travellers. There are two rivers whose waters come together here, the Rhone and the Arve, the Arve flowing into the Rhone. The waters of the Rhone are beautifully clear and sparkling. The waters of the Arve come through a clayey soil and are muddy, grey, and dull. And for a long distance the two waters are wholly distinct. Two rivers of water are in one river-bed, on one side the sparkling blue Rhone water, on the other the dull grey Arve water, and the line between the two is sharply defined. And so it continues for a long distance. Then gradually they blend and the grey begins to tinge all through the blue. I went to the guide-book and maps to find out something about this river that kept on its way undefiled by its neighbour for so long. Its source is in a glacier that is between ten thousand and eleven thousand feet high, descending “from the gates of eternal night, at the foot of the pillar of the sun.” It is fed continually by the melting glacier which, in turn, is being kept up by the snows and cold. Rising at this great height, ever being renewed steadily by the glacier, it comes rushing down the swift descent of the Swiss Alps through the lake of Geneva and on. There is the secret of purity, side by side with its dirty neighbour.

Our lives must have their source high up in the mountains of God, fed by a ceaseless supply. Only so can there be the purity and the momentum that shall keep us pure, and keep us moving down in contact with men of the earth. And we must keep closer to the source than is the Rhone at Geneva, else the streams flowing alongside will unduly influence us. Constant personal contact with Jesus is the beginning ever new of service.2 [Note: S. D. Gordon, Quiet Talks on Service, 30.]

King of mercy, King of love,

In whom I live, in whom I move,

Perfect what Thou hast begun,

Let no night put out this sun;

Grant I may, my chief desire,

Long for Thee, to Thee aspire!

Let my youth, my bloom of days

Buy my comfort, and Thy praise;

That hereafter, when I look

O’er the sullied, sinful book,

I may find Thy hand therein

Wiping out my shame and sin!

O it is Thy only art

To reduce a stubborn heart;

And since Thine is victory,

Strongholds should belong to Thee;

Lord, then take it, leave it not

Unto my dispose or lot;

But since I would not have it mine,

O my God, let it be Thine.1 [Note: Henry Vaughan.]

3. In all truth.—Truth comes last, for it signifies the inward reality and depth of the other two. Truth does not mean veracity alone, the mere truth of the lips. Heathen honesty goes as far as this. Men of the world expect as much from each other, and brand the liar with their contempt. Truth of words requires a reality behind itself. The acted falsehood is excluded, the hinted and intended lie no less than that expressly uttered. Beyond all this, it is the truth of the man that God requires—speech, action, thought, all consistent, harmonious and transparent, with the light of God’s truth shining through them. Truth is the harmony of the inward and the outward—the correspondence of what the man is in himself with that which he appears and wishes to appear to be.

Like you, I am most interested in the progress of art, and believe it can only be great by being true; but I am inclined to give truth a wider range, and I cannot help fearing you may become near-sighted. That I feel with you with regard to earnestness and truth in painting must be evident from my agreeing with you in admiration of certain productions; but I do not agree with you in your estimation of truth, or rather your view of truth. It appears to me that you confound it too much with detail, and overlook properties; and that in your appreciation of an endeavour to imitate exactly, you prefer the introduction of what is extraneous, to the leaving out of anything that may be in existence. Beauty is truth, but it is not always reality. In perceiving and appreciating with wonderful acuteness quality and truth of accident, you run some risk of overlooking larger truth of fundamental properties. In fact you are rather inclined to consider truth as a bundle of parts, than truth as a great whole.1 [Note: George Frederic Watts, i. 92.]

Imagination has pictured to itself a domain in which every one who enters should be compelled to speak only what he thought, and pleased itself by calling such domain the Palace of Truth. A palace of veracity, if you will; but no temple of the truth. A place where each one would be at liberty to utter his own crude unrealities, to bring forth his delusions, mistakes, half-formed, hasty judgments; where the depraved ear would reckon discord harmony, and the depraved eye mistake colour; the depraved moral taste take Herod or Tiberius for a king, and shout beneath the Redeemer’s cross, “Himself he cannot save!” A temple of the truth? Nay, only a palace echoing with veracious falsehoods, a Babel of confused sounds, in which egotism would rival egotism, and truth would be each man’s own lie.2 [Note: F. W. Robertson.]

The part of public agitation which she least liked was its unfairness. She could detest a thing wholeheartedly, but she never could misrepresent it, and partisanship—including Labour partisanship—she would not even excuse. Sentiment of the gushing type she mistrusted, and it found no place in her appeals. Rigidity in truthfulness was one of her fundamental characteristics. “Error is the only fruit of error,” she once said when some one urged that in dealing with the crowd one had to practise some deceptions. “If the road ahead is difficult, say so; if the pilgrimage is drudgery, discipline your people so that they may be able to go through it.” Consequently, if she held to her views with unbending decision she was always tolerant and always anxious to meet the other side.3 [Note: J. Ramsay MacDonald, Margaret Ethel MacDonald, 198.]

Let me find thy road whilst my strength holds out.

Thy rest when my strength has failed,

First the weary search, and the misty doubt,

Then Truth with her face unveiled.

In the dim pine-woods I have known her near

By the flash of her dear white feet

Down the quiet glades, where the soul can hear

A song that is passing sweet.

For the ears that hear and the hearts that dare

Her ageless song she sings;

For her listening ones she has filled the air

With the tumult of her wings.4 [Note: P. C. Ainsworth, Poems and Sonnets, 51.]

The Fruit of the Light


Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women and Children, vi. 376.

Findlay (G. G.), The Epistle to the Ephesians (Expositor’s Bible), 321.

Fleming (A. G.), Silver Wings, 70.

Garbett (E.), Experiences of the Inner Life, 127.

Holland (H. S.), Logic and Life, 163.

Jones (J. D.), The Unfettered Word, 260.

Kenrick (C. W. H.), in Sermons for the People, iii. 80.

Lewis (R. C.), in Sermons by Welshmen, 296.

Llewellyn (D.), The Forgotten Sheaf, 45.

Maclaren (A.), Christ’s Musts, 239.

Mortimer (A. G.), Lenten Preaching, 26.

Newman (J. H.), Oxford University Sermons, 37.

Pulsford (J.), Christ and His Seed, 178.

Trench (R. C.), Sermons in Ireland, 133.

Children’s Pulpit: First Sunday in Advent, i. 6 (Shore).

Christian World Puplit, lxviii. 161 (Waggett).

Clergyman’s Magazine, New Ser., i. 155 (Tillotson).

Literary Churchman, xxxviii. (1892) 105.

The Great Texts of the Bible - James Hastings

Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

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