The Well-Belovedís Vineyard
(An address to a little company of believers, in Spurgeonís sick room at Mentone, France)
"My well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill." Isaiah 5:1
We recognize at once that Jesus is here. Who but He can be meant by "My Well-beloved"? Here is a word of possession and a word of affection ó He is mine, and my Well-beloved. He is loveliness itself, the most loving and lovable of beings; and we personally love Him with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. He is ours, our Beloved, our Well-beloved, we can say no less.
The delightful relationship of our Lord to us is accompanied by words which remind us of our relationship to Him, "My Well-beloved has a vineyard," and what vineyard is that but our heart, our nature, our life? We are His: and we are His for the same reason that any other vineyard belongs to its owner. He made us His vineyard. Thorns and briars were all our growth naturally, but He bought us with a price, He hedged us about, and set us apart for Himself, and then He planted and cultivated us. All within us that can bring forth good fruit is of His creating, His tending, and His preserving; so that if we be vineyards at all, we must be His vineyards. We gladly agree that it shall be so. I pray that I may not have a hair on my head that does not belong to Christ, and you all pray that your every pulse and breath may be the Lordís.
This happy afternoon I want you to note that this vineyard is said to be upon "a very fruitful hill." I have been thinking of the advantages of my own position towards the Lord, and lamenting with great shamefacedness that I am not bringing forth such fruit to Him as my position demands. Considering our privileges, advantages, and opportunities, I fear that many of us have need to feel great searchings of heart. Perhaps to such the text may be helpful, and it will not be without profit to any one of us, if the Lord will bless our meditation upon it.
I. Our first thought, in considering these words, is that our position as the Lordís vineyard is a very favorable one. "My Well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill." No people could be better placed for serving Christ than we are. I hardly think that any man is better situated for glorifying God than I am. I do not think that any women could be in better positions for serving Christ than some of you, dear sisters, now occupy. Our heavenly Father has placed us just where He can do the most for us, and where we can do the most for Him. Infinite wisdom has occupied itself with carefully selecting the soil, and site, and aspect of every tree in the vineyard. We differ greatly, and need differing situations in order to fruitfulness: the place which would suit one might be too trying for another. Friend, the Lord has planted you in the right spot: your station may not be the best in itself, but it is the best for you. We are in the best possible position for some present service at this moment; the providence of God has put us on a vantage ground for our immediate duty: "My Well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill."
Let us think of the times in which we live as calling upon us to be very fruitful when we compare them with the years gone by. Time was when we could not have met thus happily in our own room: if we had been taken in the act of breaking bread, or reading Godís Word, we should have been hauled off to prison, and perhaps put to death. Our forefathers scarcely dared to lift up their voices in a psalm of praise, lest the enemy should be upon them. Truly, the lines have fallen unto us in pleasant places; yes, we have a goodly heritage, in a very fruitful hill.
We do not even live in times when error is so rampant as to be paramount. There is too much of it abroad; but taking a broad view of things, I venture to say that there never was a time when the truth had a wider sway than it has now, or when the gospel was more fully preached, or when there was more spiritual activity. Black clouds of error hover over us; but at the same time we rejoice that, from John oí Groatís House to the Landís End, Christ is preached by ten thousand voices, and even in the dark parts of the earth the name of Jesus is shining like a candle in the house. If we had the pick of the ages in which to live, we could not have selected a better time for fruit-bearing than that which is now occurrent: this age is "a very fruitful hill."
That this is the case some of us know positively, because we have been fruitful. Look back, brothers and sisters, upon times when your hearts were warm, and your zeal was fervent, and you served the Lord with gladness. I join with you in those happy memories. Then we could run with the swiftest, we could fight with the bravest, we could work with the strongest, we could suffer with the most patient. The grace of God has been upon certain of us in such an unmistakable manner that we have brought forth all the fruits of the Spirit. Perhaps today we look back with deep regret because we are not so fruitful as we once were: if it be so, it is well that our regrets should multiply, but we must change each one of them into a hopeful prayer. Remember, the vine may have changed, but the soil is the same. We have still the same motives for being fruitful, and even more than we used to have. Why are we not more useful? Has some spiritual phylloxera taken possession of the vines, or have we become frost-bitten, or sun-burned? What is it that withholds the vintage?
Certainly, if we were fruitful once, we ought to be more fruitful now. The fruitful hill is not exhausted; what ails us that our grapes are so few? We are planted on a fruitful hill, for we are called to work which of all others is the most fruitful. Blessed and happy is the man who is called to the Christian ministry; for this service has brought more glory to Christ than any other. You, beloved friends, are not called to be rulers of nations, nor inventors of engines, nor teachers of sciences, nor slayers of men; but we are soul-winners, our work is to lead men to Jesus. Ours is, of all the employments in the world, the most fruitful in benefits to men and glory to God.
If we are not serving God in the gospel of His Son with all our might and ability, then we have a heavy responsibility resting upon us. "Our Well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:" there is not a richer bit of soil outside Immanuelís land than the holy ministry for souls. Certain of us are teachers, and gather the young about us while we speak of Jesus. This also is choice soil. Many teachers have gathered a grand vintage from among the little ones, and have not been a whit behind pastors and evangelists in the glory of soul-winning. Dear teachers, your vines are planted in a very fruitful hill. But I do not confine myself to preachers and teachers; for all of us, as we have opportunities of speaking for the Lord Jesus Christ, and privately talking to individuals, have also a fertile soil to grow in. If we do not glorify God by soul-winning, we shall be greatly blamable, since of all forms of service it is most prolific in praise of God.
And what is more, the very circumstances with which we are surrounded all tend to make our position exceedingly favorable for fruit-bearing. In this little company we have not one friend who is extremely poor; but if such were among us, I should say the same thing. Christ has gathered some of His choicest clusters from the valley of poverty. Many eminent saints have never owned a foot of land, but lived upon their weekly wage, and found scant fare at that. Yes, by the grace of God, the vale of poverty has blossomed as the rose. It so happens, however, that the most of us here have a competence, we have all that we need, and something over to give to the poor and to the cause of God. Surely we ought to be fruitful in almsgiving, in caring for the sick, and in all manner of sweet and fragrant influences.
"Give me neither poverty nor riches," is a prayer that has been answered for most of us; and if we do not now give honor unto God, what excuse can we make for our barrenness? I am speaking to some who are singularly healthy, who are never hindered by aches and pains; and to others who have been prospered in business for twenty years at a stretch: yours is great indebtedness to your Lord: in your case, "My Well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill." Give God your strength and your wealth, my brother, while they last: see that all His care of you is not thrown away. Others of us seldom know many months together of health, but have often had to suffer sorely in body; this ought to make us fruitful, for there is much increase from the tillage of affliction. Has not the Master obtained the richest of all fruit from bleeding vines? Do not His heaviest bunches come from vines which have been sharply cut and pruned down to the ground? Choice flavors, dainty juices, and delicious aromas come mostly from the use of the keen-edged knife of trial. Some of us are at our best for fruitbearing when in other respects we are at our worst. Thus I might truly say that, whatever our circumstances may be, whether we are poor or rich, in health or in affliction, each one of our cases has its advantages, and we are planted "in a very fruitful hill."
Furthermore, when I look at our spiritual condition, I must say for myself, and I think for you also, "My Well-beloved has a vineyard in a very fruitful hill." For what has God done for us? To change the questionó what has God not done for us? What more could He say than to us He has said? What more could He do than to us He has done? He has dealt with us like a God! He has loved us up from the pit, He has loved us up to the cross, and up to the gates of heaven; He has quickened us, forgiven us, and renewed us; He dwells in us, comforts us, instructs us, upholds us, preserves us, guides us, leads us, and He will surely perfect us. If we are not fruitful to His praise, how shall we excuse ourselves? Where shall we hide our guilty heads? Shall yonder sea suffice to lend us briny tears wherewith to weep over our ingratitude?
II. I go a step further, by your leave, and say that our position, as the Lordís vineyard, is favorable to the production of the fruit which He loves best. I believe that my own position is the most favorable for the production of the fruit that the Lord loves best in me, and that your position is the same. What is this fruit?