Why by their fruits you shall know them.
Whately says, "If you saw in any country the fields carefully ploughed and cleared and sown with wheat, and yet continually sending up a growth of grass and thistles, which choked the wheat whenever they were not weeded out again and again, you would not suppose wheat to be indigenous (that is, to grow wild) in that country, but would conclude that, if the laud had been left to itself, it would have produced grass and thistles, and no wheat at all. So also, when you see men's natural character so opposite to the pure, and generous, and benevolent, and forgiving character of the gospel, that, even after they have received the gospel, their lives are apt to be quite a contrast to its virtues, you cannot think it likely that such a being as man should have been the inventor of such a religion as the Christian." Our Lord would warn his disciples of the mischievous influence of false teachers. Those cherishing guilelessness and trustfulness would be especially exposed to the power of such teachers. It was necessary to provide a safe test for the trying of all such.
I. WHAT IS THIS MODE OF JUDGING MEN? Show that, all through creation, the mature of things is exhibited to us in their forms. Illustrate seeds. Qualities of the tree, or of the bud, or graft, placed in the tree. Creatures; and man. Everywhere disposition is seen in conduct; and we esteem it fair to judge disposition by conduct.
II. BUT IS THIS ALTOGETHER A FAIR MODE OF JUDGING? On the whole, we may say, "Yes, it is." It is our only mode, for we cannot read motive. It is a mode with which we are familiar, in which we ought to be practised and skilful. We never hesitate about testing by it our fellow-men. And yet it can hardly be a perfect test. Men are so often better than their actions. We must endeavour to find what they are trying after. True in the large, it often fails in the minute.
III. USE THE TEST TO JUDGE OUR OWN INDIVIDUAL LIFE. Can we safely let the world judge our fruitage as professing Christians? What fruits of holiness, worship, brotherhood, charity, service, do they see? Come searchingly to deal with minute things. Our fruit may be good-looking, but not good; it may be like crab-apples. Our fruit may be actually good - not crab-apples, and yet of very inferior value. Our Lord said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit;" and that means "much and good." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.