Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
I. HOW A CHRISTIAN BRINGS FORTH FRUIT. I answer: he brings forth fruit "in the vine"; by nature we are barren; there is not one good blossom growing on us; but when by faith we are engrafted into Christ, then we grow and fructify; "as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in Me." Jesus Christ is that blessed root which shoots up that sap of grace into His branches.
II. WHAT THAT FRUIT IS WHICH A GOOD CHRISTIAN BRINGS FORTH.
1. A Christian brings forth inward fruit: "love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."
2. A Christian brings forth outward fruit.
(1) The fruit of good discourse; "a wholesome tongue is a tree of life." Gracious speeches fall from the lips of a godly man, as fruit from a tree.
(2) The fruit of good works. God will say at the last day, Show Me thy faith by thy works.
3. A Christian brings forth kindly fruit. The godly man bringeth forth his fruit; that is, he brings forth that fruit which is proper for him to bear. But what is this kindly and proper fruit? I answer, when we are good in our callings and relations; in a magistrate, justice is kindly fruit; in a minister, zeal; in a parent, instruction; in a child, reverence; in a master, good example; in a servant, obedience; in the husband, love; in the wife, submission; in a tradesman, diligence; in a soldier, innocence. A tree of God's planting brings forth His fruit, that which is suitable and proper. I shall never believe him to be good, that doth not bear kindly fruit; a good Christian, but a bad master; a good Christian, but a bad parent, doth not sound well. The excellency of a Christian is to bring forth proper fruit; wherein lies the good ness of a member in the body, but to discharge its proper office? the eye is to see, the ear to hear, etc. So the excellency of a Christian is to bring forth that fruit which God hath assigned to him: what is a thing good for which doth not do its proper work? what is a clock good for that will not strike? what is a ship good for that will not sail? what is a rose good for that doth not smell? what is that professor good for that doth not send forth a sweet perfume in his relation? the commendation of a thing is when it puts forth its proper virtue. Not to bring forth suitable fruit, spoils all the other fruit which we bring forth. If a man were to make a medicine, and should leave out the chief ingredient, the medicine would lose its virtue. Relative graces do much beautify and set off a Christian; it is the beauty of a star to shine in its proper orb; relative grace doth bespangle a Christian.
4. A good Christian brings forth seasonable fruit, he that bringeth forth fruit in his season; everything is beautiful in his time. That may be good at one time, which at another may be out of season. There is a great deal of skill in the right timing of a thing; duties of religion must be performed in the fit juncture of time.
(1) Christian duties that relate to our neighbour must be observed in their season. Our reproving others must be seasonable. Affliction opens the ear to discipline. Our comforting others must be seasonable; "a word spoken in due season, how good is it?"(2) Duties of religion that relate to God must be performed in their season. To read at home, when the word is a preaching, or the sacrament celebrating, is unseasonable, nay, sinful; as Hushai said, "the counsel is not good at this time": one duty is to prepare for another, but not to jostle out another; fruit must put forth seasonably. Let all the trees of righteousness bring forth season able fruit; in prosperity be thankful, in adversity patient.
I. It shows us who is a Christian in God's calendar, namely, the fruit-bearing Christian. As soon as the sap of grace is infused, it puts forth itself in evangelical fruit.
II. Here is an indictment against three sorts.
1. Such as bring forth no fruit; "Israel is an empty vine." O how many unfruitful hearers are there, who evaporate into nothing but froth and fume, being like those ears which run out all into straw I they give God neither the early fruit nor the latter. To the unfruitful Christian let me say four things.
(1) Unfruitfulness is a shame: barrenness of old was counted a great shame.
(2) What account can the unfruitful Christian give to God?
(3) They that do not bring forth good fruit, shall never taste of the fruits that grow in heaven.
2. It reproves such as bring forth evil fruit.
3. It reproves such as bring forth good fruit, but to a bad end; "Israel is an empty vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself": a man had as good bring forth no fruit, as bring forth fruit unto himself. What is it for one to bring forth fruit unto himself? Prayer is good; but when a man prays only to showy his parts, this is to bring forth fruit unto himself. Works of mercy are good, but when a man gives alms, not so much to feed the poor, as to feed his pride, now he brings forth fruit to himself, and this fruit is worm eaten.
1. Let this exhort all to fruitfulness.
(1) Fruit is that which God expects from us, we are His plantations; and, "who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?"(2) Fruitfulness is one of the most distinctive characters of a Christian; "the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit." But may not hypocrites bring forth fruit?
(a) They do not bring forth fruit in the Vine they bring forth in the strength of parts, not in the strength of Christ.
(b) Hypocrites bring forth something like fruit, but it is not the right fruit. The fruit they bear is not sweet.
(3) Fruitfulness adorns a Christian; the fruit adorns the tree; a fruit-bearing Christian is an ornament to religion; the more fruitful the branch is, the more fair to look on. A dead tree, as it is unserviceable, so it is uncomely. A Christian, decked with the fruits of righteousness, is beautiful and glorious.
(4) Fruitfulness is a good evidence to show for heaven; the fruits of love, humility, good works, are, as St. Bernard saith, seeds of hope, signs of predestination, the. happy presages of future glory. The righteousness of faith is always accompanied with the fruits of righteousness. He that can show good fruit, goes full sail to heaven.
2. It exhorts them that do bear fruit, that they would bring forth more fruit; do not think you have fruit enough, but bring forth further degrees of sanctity; "every branch that beareth fruit, he pruneth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."(1) This is the end why we have new cost laid out upon us, that we should bring forth more fruit.
(2) The fuller we are of fruit, the more we are like Christ, who was "full of grace and truth." He received the Spirit without measure.
(3) Bearing much fruit will usher in abundance of comfort into the soul in these two exigencies. Store of fruit will give comfort in the hour of death: a little trace will make us above the fear of death. O what joy will it be on the deathbed, when a Christian can bring his sheaves full of corn! when he can show his five talents that he hath gained by trading! when there is not only a drop or two of oil, but his lamp full of oil! what though the devil show God our debts, if we can show Him our fruit?
(4) The more your fruit is increased, the more your glory is increased; he whose pound gained ten, was made ruler over ten cities.
IV. The last use is of direction. I shall lay down some means to fruitfulness.
1. Be sensible of unfruitfulness.
2. If you would be fruitful, remove those things which will hinder fruitfulness. Cherishing any secret lust in the heart; sin lived in, is like vermin to the tree, which destroys the fruit; grace cannot thrive in a sinful heart.
3. The third means to fruitfulness is weeping for sin. Moisture helps germination in trees; holy tears do water the trees of God, and make them more fruitful.
4. If you would be fruitful often apply the blood of Christ, and the promises.
(1) Apply the blood of Christ. Naturalists say, that blood applied to the root of some trees makes them bear better. Sure I am, the blood of Christ applied to the heart, makes it flourish more in holiness.
(2) Apply the promises.
5. Another means to fruitfulness is humility. The low grounds are most fruitful: "the valleys are covered with corn"; the humble heart is the fruitful heart.
6. If you would be fruitful in grace, be much in good conference; "then they that. feared the Lord spake often one to another."
7. If you would be fruit-bearing trees, be near the water of the sanctuary; "he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out the roots by the river; her leaf shall be green, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit."
8. And lastly, if you would fructify apace, go, to God and desire Him to make you fruitful; God is called the Husbandman, and He hath an art above all other husbandmen; they can plant and prune trees, but if they be dead they cannot make them bear.
Parallel VersesKJV: Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.