The FRUITS of the New Birth
"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the praise and glory of God."--Phil. 1:11
From tracing some of the more distinctive marks of the New Birth, we pass to a consideration of its FRUITS--a more advanced view of the same subject. There may be certain marks or features in a tree which, to a skillful eye, indicate its genus, while it is the fruit the tree bears which alone clearly proves the species to which it belongs. We have thus far in these pages reviewed but the elementary principles of conversion, sufficiently distinctive, however, to enable the general reader to arrive at a correct conclusion as to the real state of his own soul for eternity. The present chapter will present the New Birth in its more developed or advanced stage--tracing some of the more appropriate and matured fruits of the great change from death unto life.
If we infer, and correctly so, that the individual is born again by his hating the things he once loved, and loving the things he once hated, we have more than inferential proof, we have positive and unmistakable evidence of the fact in the ripened fruits of holiness which adorn and sanctify his life. We trace not the gentle bud, or the opening blossom of grace merely, but the mellowed and golden fruit of righteousness, yielding yet loftier praise and richer glory to God. "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the praise and glory of God."
The figurative language of the passage will be familiar to the reader of his Bible. It is a favorite mode of address with the Holy Spirit. Believers are called, "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified." In landscape scenery, God has constituted the tree the principal object of beauty. In the spiritual world it is the Church. The Church of God is the beauty of the world--its only adornment and sanctity. Take the saints out of the world, and the salt is removed--its real conservative element is gone, and nothing is left but spiritual putrefaction--fuel for the flame.
Now, the leading thought we wish to place prominently before the reader is, that of APPROPRIATENESS. The tree is a "tree of righteousness"--the fruit it bears is the "fruit of righteousness." This idea must not be superficially passed over. It supplies all infallible test of Christian character, a sure criterion of real conversion. Believers are known to be trees of righteousness, or righteous trees, by their righteousness of life. The tree is known by its fruit. The deadly upas tree is distinguished by its shadow of death. The sandal tree is known by the fragrance which it breathes. In the spiritual world it is precisely the same, with this difference--that the test is yet stronger, and the result more certain.
An UNCONVERTED state will bear fruit corresponding with its own nature. It must, in the nature of things, be so. It would be a miracle, a miracle of grace, were it not. "Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" So is it in the spiritual world. The enmity against God of the carnal mind, the rejection of the Lord Jesus, the governing principle of SELF, the supreme ascendancy of the world, the slavery of sin, indicate, unmistakably, the unrenewed, unregenerate nature from which they spring. Old things have not passed away. We do not expect you to yield the fruits of holiness from an unholy nature. The life you live is in keeping with the unrenewed heart you possess. You are of the earth, earthly. It is consistent with your unregenerate nature that you should be of the world, should love the world, and that the world should love you and claim you as its own--that the things of the world--its pursuits, and pleasures, and sins--should harmonize with your nature, charm your taste, delight your senses, and bind your affections in their spell. It is only the thistle and the thorn yielding the fruit proper to their nature.
You walk, as others, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, and so you clearly evidence that you are not born again. In the absence of the fruits of righteousness, your present religious condition, and your future and eternal destiny, are melancholy and perilous in the extreme. Lose not a moment in examining your true position for eternity! With death all around you, its sentence upon you, eternity before you, the judgment-seat of Christ soon to confront you, postpone not the consideration of the great matter of conversion, lest you should be compelled to take up the lamentation, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved!"
But we turn to the RENEWED nature. We enter the Church of God where the trees of righteousness His own hand has planted grow. What a sacred and solemn enclosure is this!--a spot reclaimed from the world's wilderness by sovereign grace, and walled around with the ineffably glorious attributes of Jehovah. And now we stand amid the wonders and the glories of the new creation of the soul! Truly it is the garden of the Lord, the spiritual Eden of this fallen universe. A new and Divine sun quickens into deathless life every tree and flower and fruit. A new and heavenly atmosphere encircles it; new and exhaustless springs water it, a new and eternal heaven shines above it--lo! Christ has in His Church made all things new. It is a field which the Lord has blessed, does bless, and will through eternity bless. Such is the one, elect, redeemed Church of God, composed of all the trees of righteousness--trees of various sizes and forms and degrees of beauty and fruit, yet all trees of righteousness--of His own right hand planting, that He might be glorified.
But it is the fruit of the new nature of which we are now more especially to speak--the fruits of holiness which at once indicate its divinity and evidence its vitality. One word expresses emphatically the idea--"RIGHTEOUSNESS." "The fruits of righteousness." The bitter, poisonous fruits of unrighteousness meet us at every turn. They confront us in every species and shape and tint. Oh, what an ungodly world is this! Who would not sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done beneath the sun of heaven? The impurity, the insanity, the frivolity, the fraud, the oppression, the wrong, the cruelty, the injustice, the selfishness, the baseness, the torture, the profanity, the hypocrisy, the utter, total defiance of God, disbelief of His Word and rejection of His Son, all, all unite to confirm the truth of the inspired declaration, "The whole world lies in wickedness"--in the Wicked One. Such are some of the fruits borne by the unrighteous tree.
But the plants of God's setting, the trees of His own planting, are righteous, and the fruit they bear corresponds with their nature--divine, fragrant, precious fruit of righteousness by which His great and holy name is glorified. The regenerate are emphatically the righteous. The language is strong which sets this forth. Speaking of the Church of God, the prophet says, "This is the name with which she shall be called, The Lord our righteousness." The very name applied to the Lord Jesus is here given to His Church! It is fit that the Lamb's Wife should bear the name of her Divine and Royal Husband--"The Lord Our Righteousness." Standing in His imputed righteousness, the believer is counted as righteousness in Christ. "Their righteousness is of me, says the Lord." "He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
In addition to this external imputation of righteousness--constituting the full and free justification of the Lord's people--is the internal righteousness of the Spirit--the germ of holiness implanted in regeneration, which, as remarked, is the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. Such, then, is the nature of the fruit the believer bears. While all other trees--at the root of which the axe is laid prepared to fell them to the earth at the bidding of God--bring forth not good fruit, these, through electing love and sovereign grace, in the springtide of youth and in mellow old age bring forth good fruit, even the fruits of righteousness, and God is glorified.
What are you, O reader? A tree of righteousness, or of unrighteousness? What is the fruit you bear? What is the life you are living? Think of your responsibility, remember your accountability, meditate upon your immortality! Are you sowing to the flesh or to the Spirit, for time or eternity, for a harvest of woe or a harvest of bliss, for heaven or hell? Rest not short of real conversion. Until you pass into the experience of the new birth, all the moral fruit you bear--though like the apples of Sodom, lovely and pleasant to look upon--is but the bitter fruit of a sinful, unregenerate nature, supplying fuel for the last, the terrible, the eternal fire. "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the tree--therefore every tree which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."
But there is fruit that endures unto eternal life. Let us examine it. Having stated its nature, let us attempt a brief classification. The apostle speaks in the plural--"fruits of righteousness." The Lord's trees of righteousness bear all manner of holy fruit. For, "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Let us consider some.
In the foreground of our picture we place the fruit ofFAITH. The contrast in this particular with the unregenerate is very striking. Unbelief is the great characteristic--the master sin--of the world. Referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit, our Lord intimates this. "When He has come, He will convince (or convict) the world of sin, because they BELIEVE NOT on me." We live in a world unbelieving as to all that relates to the world to come. It will believe everything as to the world that now is, though it be the most ridiculous illusion that ever floated before the wildest fancy; it will believe nothing as to the world to come, though God, who spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.
But faith is the grand characteristic of the trees of righteousness. Basing his belief upon the BIBLE as a divine revelation, receiving it as the Book of God without demur or qualification, the Christian believes all that the Holy Scriptures of truth make known. The faith that accepts and spiritually understands the Bible, possesses and understands the Library of the universe. Marvelous volume! Without it what a blank would the annals of the present world be, and how bewildered would be our historians and sociologists, philosophers and moralists, to account for a large proportion of the phenomena which meet them at every step! How inexplicable the creation of the world, the introduction of natural and moral evil, the history of the primogeniture of the race, the manners and customs of the early ages, the multiplicity of races and of languages existing on the earth, the history of that most astonishing of all people the Jews, the remarkable phenomena in the internal structure of the earth, as well as the existence of 'marine remains' found upon the summits of some of the loftiest mountains far remote from the sea! And yet, there are those in this enlightened age who, with the solemn vows of God upon them to believe and defend the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, are endeavoring to shake our faith in their integrity.
But the most prominent characteristic of the faith of the Christian is its repose in the Lord Jesus Christ as its great Object of reliance. There is no true faith in God, or in His Word, where there exists unbelief in Christ--the Christ whom God's Word reveals as the Sent of God. We may have just that faith in the existence of God which saves us from absolute atheism, but not that faith in God which brings us into actual theism. An ocean plant exquisitely formed, a coral reef curiously constructed, a simple flower shedding its fragrance amid alpine snows, may, in their silent, convincing eloquence, testify to you of 'a God'--that He formed that marine plant so exquisitely; created the insect that piled up that coral reef so curiously; pencilled the flower that blooms amid those frosts so sweetly; but, believing only in God as the God of nature and not in Him as the God of grace--the God who sent His beloved Son into the world to save it--your faith still leaves you in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity--the servant of sin and the slave of Satan.
The carnal mind is at enmity against God; and faith in His 'natural attributes' will not dissolve into love one atom of its malignity. And what regard has God for the faith which brings to Him but the Cain-offering of fruit and flower, while it disbelieves in His beloved Son, rejects His unspeakable gift, and brings no Abel-offering of faith in atoning sacrifice for sin? It is the utterance of Jesus Himself--"He that honors not the Son, honors not the Father who sent Him."
But the faith of the true believer embraces Christ, and believing in the Son, it embraces also the Father--"Then Jesus cried out, When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me." Such is the fruit clustering in all its beauty and fragrance upon the trees of righteousness! And no language can adequately describe the worth and preciousness of that faith that accepts without hesitation or qualification, on God's terms, the Lord Jesus Christ. The honor which this act of faith brings to JEHOVAH--the diadem of glory which it places upon His head--can but find its expression in the words of Jesus--"This is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
The confused and vague conceptions which many cherish of faith tend very much to render the fruit of this grace slender and sickly. It is impossible to entertain views too simple of the nature and operation of faith. Departing from the teaching of God's Word, and submitting themselves to human reasoning--the definitions and teachings of man, which tend to obscure rather than to elucidate Divine truth--they are lost in endless and fruitless speculations touching this most Divine, most fruitful and precious grace of the Spirit. And yet, taking the Bible as our manual, nothing is more simple and clear than its teachings concerning faith. What is faith? It is simply to believe what God says. The words are--"Have faith in God." "BELIEVE that I am able to do this?" "BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus Christ." "Lord, I BELIEVE." "Be it unto you according to your FAITH." "Your FAITH has made you whole." "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have BELIEVED." "It is of FAITH, that it might be by grace."
Now, the faith that receives Christ is the most direct, simple, and saving exercise of this marvelous grace, and the most lovely and precious exhibition of this fruit. To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, is everything to the soul. An eternity of bliss is involved in it. Believe in Christ, and the treasures of heaven are swept into your bosom. Believe in Christ, and a present salvation is yours. Believe in Christ, and the hope of glory dawns upon your soul. Believe in Christ, and you are linked with the bliss of eternity.
You have nothing to do, only to BELIEVE. Away with conditions--away with reasonings--away with questionings--and immediately, simply, only BELIEVE that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and you are SAVED! It is when faith in Christ is simple that it is strong; when its hand is empty that it is full; when it comes in its deepest poverty that it is rich; and when it is the most weak in created dependencies that it is the strongest in God. See, then, that you bear this fruit of righteousness, and so evidence your new creation. Have faith in God--in His word of promise, in His infinite power, in His immutable faithfulness.
Take Him at His word, and though He slays you, yet trust in Him. Be your faith that before whose far-seeing eye the present pales, the future brightens; which diminishes the present things of trial, and suffering, and need, and magnifies the future things of happiness, fruition, and glory. Be your faith that which purifies the heart, which works by love, which walks humbly with God, which lies securely and peacefully at anchor upon the promise in the storm, which reposes quietly in the very bosom of Him whose chastening hand has smitten you. O glorious fruit of righteousness! Lord, let Your sun warm, let Your springs water, let Your hand prune my soul, that I may be filled with this precious fruit of faith, to the greater honor and glory of Your holy name!
In close proximity to the fruit of faith is that ofLOVE. Love is that Divine principle which more than all others, perhaps, assimilates us to the Divine nature. "God is love." And when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, sanctifying our character, molding, influencing, and constraining us, we are like God. The religion of Jesus is the religion of LOVE. It is the revelation of love--the sacrifice of love--the story of love--the love of the Savior to sinners; and, as the subjects of His religion, the fruit of love will be seen in the life we live. Love, then, is the fruit of the new birth--"Love is of God, and every one that LOVES is BORN OF GOD, and knows God."
The absence of this fruit of righteousness--love to God supreme influencing and assimilating; love to Christ constraining us to obedience and conformity; love to the saints because they are saints, tiding over all differences of judgment, prejudices, and infirmities, manifesting our love to the Lord in the disciple; love to the Word of God, delighting in it more than in our necessary food, sweeter to our taste than the honeycomb, and more precious in our estimate than pure gold--negates our claim to the possession of the new birth; for, if we are begotten of God we shall partake the nature and reflect the image of God, and shall love, not only Him that begat, but them also who are begotten of Him.
How truly lovely and precious is this grace of love! The obedience that springs from it is sweeter far and more honoring to the Lord than the obedience which is the result of fear only. As fruit forced in a conservatory has not the flavor of fruit of spontaneous growth, fruit brought to perfection by the sun, so the obedience that is coerced by the law lacks the sweetness and fragrance of the obedience that is constrained by the gospel. Love makes all the difference!
Now, in proportion to the growth of the Divine nature within us, and the fidelity of our likeness to God, will be our love--love to Jesus Christ and to all His saints--the poorest, the lowest, the weakest. And we ought to love the saints wherever we meet them, unlovely though their natural properties may be. Does not the Lord Jesus, the great High Priest, bear engraven upon His heart the names of all His people? Then, surely we, as a royal priesthood, ought to bear upon our hearts, in affection, sympathy, and charity, all who thus are borne upon the heart of Christ. No, more, we are called upon, as partaking of the Divine nature, to love our enemies--"I say unto you, Love your enemies."
An unregenerate man will love his friend, but hate his enemy; a regenerate man, under a proper and holy influence, will love both--his friend and his foe. Such is the fruit borne by the renewed nature. But, oh, how lamentably deficient are we of this fruit of love! How little of it exists in the professing Church of God! Here and there a cluster is seen--its very rarity increasing its preciousness--but the easily offended demeanor of ecclesiastical and doctrinal systems too thickly veils it from view, even where it exists; and so the Church of God is robbed of much of her loveliness and power, and God and Christ of much of their praise and glory.
But, oh, cultivate this fruit of righteousness! Look well to this, the badge of your Christian discipleship, the evidence of your new birth. Lacking it, what though you speak with the tongues of men and of angels; what though you have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; what though you have all faith, so that you could remove mountains; what though you bestowed your goods to feed the poor, and give your body to be burned--yet, lacking the grace of charity, or LOVE, you lack the most genuine and authenticating evidence that you are born of God; and all else is but as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal, (1 Cor. 13:1-3.)
And what precious fruit of righteousness is that which appears inthe breathing of the renewed and devout soul after GOD and HOLINESS! One of the finest pages in David's recorded experience is that traced with these holy breathings--"O God, You are my God; early will I seek You--my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." Here is the divine nature ascending to its Divine Savior, rising to its level; and where it exists, to that Savior it will ever ascend. That which is divine reaches after the divine. That which is holy breathes after holiness. That which is of and from God is, in its nature and actings, godly.
The moral gravitation of the unregenerate is earthward--that of the regenerate heavenward. Having borne the image of the earthly, the believer now bears the image of the heavenly. Oh, it is a holy and impressive spectacle that of the soul breathing after God! When none but God will satisfy your longings; when your spirit pants for Him as the deer pants for the water-brooks, and more intensely; when, amid the din and turmoil of the world, like Isaac, you go forth to meditate in the field at eventide, your heart ascends to God in holy breathings, devout desires, and spiritual prayers, it is as though earth were kissing heaven, the human rising to the Divine, the finite losing itself in the Infinite. Such is prayer! a worm basking in the sun; a beggar at the beautiful gate; a child in communion with its parent; a sinner in audience with the Savior; a saint in fellowship with God. Drawing near to God in either of these relations, the nature and the actings of the renewed heart are exhibited in one of their holiest and most impressive forms.
Beloved, seek earnestly more of this religion--the religion of vital communion with God. Earth has no sweets, the creature no delights, sense no joys like this. It is the only religion that proves its divine source and its heavenly nature. It is the only religion that meets the yearnings of the soul, that satisfies its desires, quenches its thirst, and sustains it amid afflictions and trials--the religion that deals closely, filially, humbly with God. Whatever heaviness, leanness, or sadness you may feel--when you have not a word to express, nor a heart to pray--never be tempted to give up prayer, to forsake the throne of grace. Go with your dullest, lowest frame--go with your shaded spirit, your sealed lips--and if you but lie in the presence of the Lord, detained, sad and mute, before the Ark, you will yet be conscious of a presence and a power which, soft and silent as the light, will diffuse life, joy, and radiance through your soul. Oh, give yourself to prayer!
God knows your sorrows, Christ interprets the language of your tears, the Holy Spirit understands the meaning of your groans. May this fruit of righteousness abound in us, who through grace believe, more and more! May our Christianity be more marked by poverty of spirit and mourning for sin; more faithful dealing with conscience and with our own hearts; more intense thirsting after holiness and more close communion with God; in a word, more of that divine vitality that ascends to, and loses itself in, God, the infinite Fountain of uncreated bliss! "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after You, O God."
Butby whose grace and vitality does the believer bring forth these fruits of righteousness? The apostle tells us--"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, WHICH ARE BY JESUS CHRIST." Here is the true source of our fruitfulness. We bear no holiness but in union with Him--"From Me is your fruit found." Engrafted into Christ, we necessarily become one with Christ; and in virtue of this vital and spiritual union we bear the fruits of righteousness. One with Christ, we are one with Deity, are one with mediatorial life, and so one with all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Surely, if ever there existed a true, vital graft, it is this. Blessed union! one with the Lord Jesus! One with Him, as the branch is one with the vine. Thus united to Christ, by Christ dwelling in us through the Spirit, we partake of His life, and His life germinates in us; and so we yield the fruits of righteousness by Him.
Not only in virtue of our union with Christ, but in consequence of our receiving from Christ, we become fruitful. Once more we quote that most remarkable and significant declaration in Hosea--"From Me is your fruit found." The New Testament echo of these Old Testament words is in John 15:4--"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me." Now, this abiding in Christ is the believer's own act, and involves the life of faith he lives on the fullness, sufficiency, and person of the Lord Jesus. As the branch extracts its life and nourishment from the vine, and thus becomes fruitful, so the believer receives out of Christ's fullness grace following upon grace, strength succeeding strength, life quickening life; and thus he is filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ.
Oh, it is by the life of Jesus, the supplies from Jesus, the intercession of Jesus--drawing constantly and largely from His overflowing fullness--taking to Him every corruption, confessing every sin, unveiling to Him every sorrow--that we become fruitful in faith, and love, and prayer. From Christ, and not from ourselves, we derive the skill by which we foil our foe; the grace by which we accomplish our service; the strength by which we sustain affliction; the life, the energy, the self-denying spirit by which, in whatever position we are placed, we glorify God. Leaning thus upon Christ--abiding thus in Christ--traveling thus to Christ--associating Christ with every duty, and cross, and trial, and service--doing nothing, undertaking nothing, enduring nothing without Jesus--we shall be filled with holy fruit.
How sweet it is thus to have Jesus blended with every thought, and feeling, and act! Conscious of His presence, to enter upon every self-denying service, to bear every painful cross, to lay down every precious idol, to drink every bitter cup to which He calls us--this it is to bear fruit by Jesus Christ. It is our fruit, indeed, but it is from Him we derive and by Him we bear it. Oh, how kind and gracious of the Lord to call it our fruit, as if it were all our own, and not all from Him! But this is so like Jesus. He takes the crown, as from His own head, and places it upon that of His saints. "YOUR FAITH has saved you." And yet, that faith was all the work of His own Spirit and the free gift of This own grace. And still He commends and crowns the lowly recipient, as though the merit and the achievement of the faith were all our own! Oh, what a gracious, condescending Savior is ours!
Lord, we give You back the crown You would place upon the head of our graces; for, from You alone is our fruit found, and to You belong, without a rival, the garland of our praises and the diadem of Your own glory. Without You, severed from You, we can do nothing. Shade Your sun, suspend Your showers, withdraw Your life, and we droop, wither, and die. Every grace perishes. Faith falters and fails; hope droops and is crushed; love wanes and expires; and we become barren and unfruitful, cast forth as a branch that is withered.
Look, then, O believer, to Christ the living vine to make you fruitful of holiness. No spiritual fertility of soul will be promoted by looking either within yourself or to your duties. You must ABIDE in Christ. Realizing your union with Him, your acceptance and completeness in Him, your supplies of grace as from Him; looking to Christ, living upon Christ, associating everything with Christ--you will become filled with the fruits of righteousness. "Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples."
The great END of all our fruitfulnessis, the praise and glory of God. And what an appropriate and sublime conclusion is this! It is a solemn, and yet a glorious truth, that everything God has created shall terminate in Him as its great and final end. All shall result in His glory. "I have created him for my glory." "The Lord has made all things for Himself." The salvation of the righteous, and the everlasting destruction of the wicked, shall alike show forth His praise and illustrate His glory. Yes, those fruits of righteousness--that lowly faith, that humble love, that feeble grace, that imperfect service, that weak endeavor to please Him, that victory over the tempter, that conquest of sin, that heavy cross carried, that bitter cup drank, that long, lingering illness, that suffering of death--all, all shall redound to the praise and glory of JEHOVAH'S grace when the Lord shall come to be admired by His saints, and to be adored in all those who believe. If only the preparation of the soil, the sowing of the seed, the culture of the plant, the maturing of the fruit, brought such praise and glory to the Lord God here, oh, how great will be the revenue of praise and glory He will receive when all the golden sheaves are sickled, and the fruit is garnered, and heaven resounds with the song of the HARVEST HOME!