The Trees of
and Bringing Forth Fruit
by Thomas Watson
"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ,
unto the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:11
The blessed apostle in this chapter makes a solemn prayer
to God for these Philippians; and, among the rest, he puts up two rare
petitions for them:
First, that they might be sincere (verse 10).
Second, that they might be fruitful: "being filled with
the fruits of righteousness."
1. The matter: "being filled with fruits."
2. The manner of production: "by Jesus Christ."
3. The end: "which are to the glory and praise of God."
DOCTRINE: Christians should above all things, endeavor
after fruitfulness. The saints are called "trees of
righteousness" in Isaiah 61:3. These rational trees must not only
bring forth leaves—but fruit, "being filled with the fruits of
righteousness." To further amplify this, there are two things to be inquired
QUESTION. How does a Christian bring forth fruit?
ANSWER. He brings forth fruit in the vine. By nature we
are barren, and there is not one good blossom growing on us; but when by
faith we are engrafted into Christ, then we grow and bear fruit. John 15:4:
"Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on
the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me." Jesus Christ is that
blessed Root which shoots up that sap of grace into His branches. The
Pelagians tells us we have sufficiency of ourselves to bring forth good
fruit; but how improper is this? Does not the root contribute to the
branches? Is it not of Christ's precious fullness that we receive (John
1:16)? Therefore it is observable that Christ calls the spouse's grace His
grace. Song of Solomon 5:1: "I have gathered My myrrh with My
spice." Christ does not say, "your myrrh," but "My myrrh." If the saints
bear any spiritual fruit, they are indebted to Christ for it; it is His
myrrh. Hosea 14:8: "From Me is your fruit found."
QUESTION. What is that fruit which a sincere Christian
ANSWER. It is inward fruit, outward fruit, kindly fruit,
and seasonable fruit.
1. A Christian brings forth INWARD fruit:
love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, and faith (Galatians
5:22). This fruit is sweet and mellow, growing under the Sun of
righteousness. This is that ripe fruit which God delights to taste (Micah
2. A Christian brings forth OUTWARD fruit. He
brings forth the fruit of good speech. Proverbs 15:4: "A wholesome
tongue is a tree of life." Gracious speeches fall from the lips of a godly
man, as fruit does from a tree.
A Christian brings forth the fruit of good works
(Colossians 1:10). God will say at the last day, "Show me your faith by your
works" (James 2:18). A true saint does all the good he can, honoring the
Lord with his substance; he knows he is to be in the world but a while, and
therefore lives much in a little time, crowding up a great deal of work in a
little time. It was Christ's speech not long before His suffering, "I have
finished the work which You gave Me to do" (John 17:4). How can they be said
to finish their work—who never began to work?
3. A Christian brings forth KINDLY fruit. "The
godly man brings forth his fruit" (Psalm 1:3), that is, he brings forth that
fruit which is proper for him to bear. But what is this kindly and proper
fruit? It is when we are holy in our callings and relations. In a
magistrate, justice is kindly fruit (Deuteronomy 16:19); in a minister, zeal
(Acts 17:16); in a parent, instruction (Deuteronomy 4:10); in a child,
reverence (Ephesians 6:1); in a master, a good example (Genesis 18:19;
Ephesians 6:9); in a servant, obedience (1 Peter 2:18); in the husband, love
(Ephesians 5:25); in the wife, submission (Ephesians 5:22); in a tradesman,
diligence (Exodus 20:9); in a soldier, innocence (Luke 3:14).
A tree of God's planting brings forth his fruit, that
which is suitable and proper. I shall never believe him to be godly, who
does not bear kindly fruit. A man cannot be a sincere Christian—but a bad
master. A sincere Christian—but a bad parent, does not sound well. That
minister can no more be godly who lacks zeal—than that wine is good which
lacks spirits; that magistrate can no more be good who lacks justice—than
that pillar is good which is not upright. That child can no more be good who
does not honor his parents—than a traitor can be said to be loyal. When
Absalom rose up in rebellion against his father, the mule which he rode upon
(as if she were weary of carrying such a burden) resigned her load up to the
great, thick oak, and there left him hanging by the hair, between heaven and
earth, as neither fit to ascend the one nor worthy to tread upon the other.
Let Christians be persuaded to bring forth proper and
genuine fruit, and shine forth in their relations. He who is not godly in
his relations goes under the just suspicion of being a hypocrite; let a man
seem to be a penitent or zealous—yet if he does not bear fruit proper to his
station, he is no tree of righteousness—but some wild, degenerate plant.
There are some who will pray, hear sermons, discourse well; and this is
good; but what does this bleating of the sheep mean? They are not
good in their relationships; this reveals that they are unsound. A sincere
Christian labors to fill his relationships. I do not like those Christians
who, though they seem to be traveling to heaven—yet leave the duties of
their relations, as a uncharted territory, which they never come near.
The excellency of a Christian is to bring forth proper
fruit. Wherein does the goodness of a member in the body lie, but to
discharge its proper office? The eye is to see, the ear to hear, and so on.
So the excellency of a Christian is to bring forth that fruit which God has
assigned to him. What is a thing good for—which does not do its proper work?
What is a clock good for—which will not strike? What is a ship good
for—which will not sail? What is a rose good for—which does not give forth
its fragrance? What is that professor good for—who does not send forth a
sweet perfume in his relationships?
The commendation of a thing, is when it puts forth its
Not to bring forth suitable fruit, spoils all the other
fruit which we bring forth. If a man were to make a medicine and leave out
the chief ingredient—the medicine would lose its virtue. If one were to draw
a portrait and leave out an eye—it would spoil the picture. There are many
to whom Christ will say at the day of judgment, as He did to the young man
in Luke 18:22, "Yet lack you one thing. You have prayed, fasted, and heard
sermons—yet lack you one thing—you have not been godly in your
Relative graces do much to beautify and set off a
Christian. It is the beauty of a star to shine in its proper orb.
Relative grace bespangles a Christian.
4. A sincere Christian brings forth SEASONABLE fruit.
Psalm 1:3 speaks of "he who brings forth fruit in his season."
Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that "everything is beautiful in his time."
That may be good at one time, which at another time 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.
Christian duties which relate to our neighbor must be
observed in their season. For example, our reproving others
must be seasonable. Reproof is a duty; when we see others walk irregularly,
like soldiers who march out of rank and file, we ought mildly—yet gravely,
to tell them of their sin (Leviticus 19:17); but let this fruit be brought
forth in its season.
Do it privately. Matthew 18:15: "Go and tell him
his faults between him and you alone." Do it when you see him in the best
temper, not when his passions are up—that would be like pouring oil on the
flame. But only reprove him when it is seasonal—when his spirit is meekened
and calmed. You put the seal on the wax when it is soft and pliable. There
is a time when men's spirits are more flexible and yielding; now is the
fittest time to stamp a reproof upon them, and it is likeliest to take
impression. When Abigail reproved Nabal, it was in the right season; not
when he was in wine—but when he was in his wits, and was fit to hear a
reproof (1 Samuel 25:37).
Another season for reproof is in the time of
affliction. Affliction tames men's spirits, and then a word of reproof
spoken prudentially may work with the affliction. A bitter potion is not
refused if in case of extremity of pain. Affliction opens the ear to
Also, our comforting others must be seasonable.
Proverbs 15:23: "A word spoken in due season, how good is it?" When we see
one fallen into sin, and like Peter weeping bitterly—now a word of comfort
will do well. When the incestuous Corinthian was deeply humbled, the apostle
called for oil and wine to be poured into his wounds. 2 Corinthians 2:7:
"You ought rather to comfort him." And the reason given was, "lest perhaps
such a one should be swallowed up with sorrow." When the soul is wounded for
sin, them bring the mollifying ointment of a promise (Jeremiah 3:1). Hang
out free grace's colors; display the glory of God's attributes, His mercy
and truth to the sinner.
When the spirit is broken, a word of comfort spoken in
season is putting it in joint again. We bring forth seasonable fruit when we
give wine to those who are of a heavy heart. Pleasant words are as an
honeycomb, sweet to the soul. Job's friends pretended to comfort him—but,
instead of pouring oil into the wound, they poured in vinegar.
Duties of religion that relate to God must be performed
in their season. Mourning for sin is a duty. God loves a contrite heart
(Psalm 51:17). How powerful with God is the weeping rhetoric which a
poor sinner uses? Yet there is a time when weeping may not be so seasonable;
when God has given us some eminent signal deliverance, and this mercy calls
aloud to us to rejoice—but we hang our harps on the willows and sit weeping.
This sadness is fruit out of season.
There was a special time at the Feast of Tabernacles when
God called His people to rejoicing: "Seven days shall you keep a solemn
feast unto the Lord your God—and you shall surely rejoice." Now if the
Israelites had sat heavy and disconsolate at the time when God called them
to rejoice, it would have been very unseasonable, like mourning at a
wedding. When we are called to thanksgiving, and we mingle our drink with
tears, is not this to be highly unthankful for mercy? God would have His
people humble—but not ungrateful. It is the devil's policy either to keep us
from duty—or else to put us upon it when it is least in season.
Rejoicing is a duty (Psalm 33:1). But when God, by some
special providence, calls us to weeping, then joy is unseasonable. This is
that which God complained of in Isaiah 22:12-13: "In that day the Lord
Almighty called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in
sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of sackcloth to show your remorse.
But instead, you dance and play." Occolampadius and others think it was in
the time of king Ahaz, when the signs of God's anger, like a blazing star,
appeared. Now to be given to mirth was very unseasonable, according to verse
14: "Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you until you die." It is
a concise form of an oath, as if God had said, "I swear that it shall not by
any prayer or sacrifice be expiated!"
To read at home when the word is being preached or the
sacrament is being celebrated, is unseasonable, nay, sinful. As Hushai said
in 2 Samuel 17:7, "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. The great God who has appointed the duties of His worship
has appointed also the time. If, when public ordinances are administered,
any person, whether out of pride or sloth, shall stay at home, though he may
have his private devotions—yet he brings forth fruit out of season, and let
that man know he shall bear his sin.
Let all the trees of righteousness bring forth seasonable
fruit. In prosperity, be thankful; in adversity, be patient. "To everything
there is a season" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). The Psalmist said, "He appointed the
moon for seasons" (Psalm 104:19).
To excite you to seasonable fruit, consider that the
seasonableness of a thing, puts a value and preciousness upon it. Duties of
religion performed in their season, are glorious. Creatures, by the instinct
of nature, observe their season. Jeremiah 8:7: "Yes the stork in the heaven
knows her appointed times." And shall not Christians observe their
seasons—when to mourn and when to rejoice? Consider also that duties of
religion not well timed are dangerous; mourning in a time of
joy, and private duties in time of public ones—are
unseasonable and will prove harmful.
This 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 itself forth in evangelical fruit. No sooner was Paul
converted than he became a plant of renown; he brought forth rare
fruit—humility, faith, and heavenly mindedness. He was one of the most
fruitful trees that God ever planted in His vineyard. When God changed the
jailor from a wild tree to a tree of righteousness, he brought forth sweet
and generous fruit. How kindly he treated the apostles! He set food before
them and washed their wounds; he who was before their jailor, became then
their nurse and physician!
II. Reproof. Here is an indictment against
three sorts of people:
1. This reproves such as bring forth no fruit.
Hosea 10:1: "Israel is an empty vine." Oh, how many unfruitful
hearers there are who evaporate into nothing but froth and smoke, being like
those ears of corn which are turned into straw! They give God neither the
early fruit, nor the latter. There are many Christians who are like arbors,
covered only with the leaves of profession; they may be compared to the wood
of the vine which is good for nothing (Ezekiel 15:2). "He who has not
the fruits of the Spirit—has not the Spirit, and he who has not the
Spirit—is none of Christ's" (Romans 8:9). And if he is not Christ's, whose
is he then? I fear the sin of this age is unfruitfulness. Never has
there been more laboring in God's vineyard, and yet never has there been
less fruit; instead of the fruitful fig tree and the pomegranate, we have
abundance of barren willows growing among us. Ministers say they fear
they spend their labor in vain; many are perverted, few converted.
To those professing Christians who are unfruitful, let me
say four things:
First, unfruitfulness is a shame;
barrenness of children was counted a great shame. For a tree in
winter to be unfruitful is no great wonder; but in the spring and
summer, to be without fruit—is a reproach to the tree. So, in the
winter of ignorance and popery—to have less fruit was less
culpable; but in the springtime of the gospel, when the Sun of
Righteousness has shined so gloriously in our horizon, now to be without
fruit is a reproach not to be wiped away!
Second, what account can the unfruitful professor give to
God? God will come with this question, "Where is your fruit?" A
godly man dies full of fruit. Job 5:26: "You will approach the grave in full
vigor, as a stack of sheaves is gathered in its season." The unfruitful
professor comes to his grave, not with a stack of sheaves is gathered in its
season—but as a bundle of worthless straw, fit only for the fire! It is good
to think to ourselves what answer we shall give to God for our barrenness.
The Lord has planted us in a rich soil, and He may say to us as He did to
His vineyard in Isaiah 5:1-2 "My beloved has a vineyard on a rich and
fertile hill. He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with
choice vines. Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes—but the grapes
that grew were wild and sour!"
Hilly places are judged the fittest for vines to grow in
(Psalm 80:10), that is, in a very fat, rich soil. There the sun comes best,
and is of more force for ripening the grapes. So may God say to us, "I have
planted you in a hilly place. You have been higher than the nations round
about you. You have even been lifted up to heaven with ordinances. The
sunbeams of mercy, and Zion's silver drops, have fallen upon you—but where
is your fruit? Your blessings have been great—but where is your fruit?" Whom
God finds without fruit, He leaves without excuse.
Third, those who do not bring forth good fruit, shall
never taste of the fruits that grow in heaven. Heaven is the
garden of God, the paradise of pleasure, where the most rare, delicious
fruits grow; there are fruits which the angels themselves delight to feed
on. Now, if you do not bring God your fruit, you shall never taste His
fruit. You who do not bring forth the fruits of righteousness, shall
never taste the fruits of paradise. Oh, present Christ with your
sweet spices; give Him your myrrh, your spiced wine. Your myrrh is,
repentance; this, though it is bitter to you, is sweet to Christ. Those who
have no myrrh or wine to give to God—shall never feed upon the Tree of Life
which bears several sorts of fruit.
Fourth, think of the heavy doom which will be passed upon
the unfruitful person. Matthew 25:30: "Cast the unprofitable
servant into outer darkness." This man had not embezzled his
talent—but because he did not trade with it and bring forth fruit—he was
This reproves such as bring forth evil fruit. They
are not trees of the garden—but the wilderness; their hearts are a fruitful
soil for sin! They bring forth pride, malice, superstition, and the like.
This reproves such as bring forth good fruit—but to a bad end. Hosea 10:1:
"Israel is an empty vine, he brings forth fruit unto himself." A man would
be better to bring forth no fruit—as bring forth fruit unto himself.
QUESTION. What is it for one to bring forth fruit unto
ANSWER. It is when all the good he does, is to magnify
himself. The worm of pride gets into his fruit and spoils it. Prayer
is good; but when a man prays only to show his gifts, this is to bring forth
fruit unto himself.
Some take pride in their humbling confessions, which is
as if Benhadad's servants had been proud when they came before the king with
ropes around their necks (1 Kings 20:31). Works of mercy are good—but when a
man gives alms not so much to feed the poor, as to feed his pride—then he
brings forth fruit to himself, and this fruit is filled with worms.
God will say to all such self-seekers, as once He did to the people of the
Jews in Zechariah 7:5, "When you fasted and mourned, did you at all fast
unto Me, even to Me?" Sinners, did you not bring forth fruit unto
III. Exhortation. Let this exhort all to
fruitfulness. How happy would it be, if it might be said of us as it was of
Joseph in Genesis 49:22, "Joseph is a fruitful bough!" We love to see
everything fruitful; if there is a tree in our orchard, though covered with
ever such fair leaves, we do not value it unless there is fruit. When
you come into your garden, you complain if you see no fruit. We love to see
fruitfulness everywhere, and why not in our hearts? Oh, let the precious
grapes and figs we bear, give evidence that we are trees of God's planting.
We often plant trees to be a shade to the house.
God cares for no such trees as are only for shade—He loves fruit. Arabia is
called "Felix," because of the sweet fruits which grow there: frankincense,
with other perfumes and spices. That Christian may be entitled "Felix,"
happy, who has the sweet fruits of the Spirit growing in his heart. Be
fruit-bearing trees. This is the emblem of a sincere Christian: he is never
without fruit, either blooming in his affections or fructifying in
That I may persuade Christians to fruitfulness, I desire
them to weigh these five things:
1. Fruit is that which God expects from us. We
are His plants, and "Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit?" (1
Corinthians 9:7). Let us not be as Pharaoh's lean cows, which devoured the
fat cows, and yet still were lean; let us not be still devouring sermons—yet
never the fatter for them.
2. Fruitfulness is one of the most distinctive
characteristics of a Christian. Proverbs 12:12: "The root of the
righteous yields fruit." Fruitfulness distinguishes a saint from a
hypocrite. The hypocrite is all for show and pretense; he has fair
leaves—but "the root of the righteous yields fruit." Fruit can no more be
separated from faith—than moisture from the air; it is the very definition
of a branch in Christ; it bears fruit (John 15:2). As a man differs
from a beast by reason, a beast differs from a plant by sense, and a
plant differs from a stone by fruit—so a sincere Christian differs
from a hypocrite by fruit. Fruitfulness puts a difference between the
sound tree—and the hollow tree.
QUESTION. But may not hypocrites bring forth fruit?
ANSWER. They do not bring forth fruit in the Vine; they
bring forth in the strength of their abilities, not in the strength of
Hypocrites bring forth something like fruit—but it is not
the right fruit. The fruit they bear is not so sweet. The crab-apple tree
may bear fruit as well as the pear-tree—but the pear excels in sweetness.
The hypocrite may pray and give alms as well as a child of God—but there is
a difference in the fruit. The fruit of the regenerate is wholesome; it is
sweetened with faith and ripened with love. The hypocrite's fruit is sour
and harsh; he does not bring forth sweet pomegranates—but crab-apples; not
figs—but wild grapes.
The seeming fruit of hypocrites dies and comes to
nothing. John 15:6: "He is like a branch that is thrown away and withers;
such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." The
hypocrite's fruit is like the grass upon the housetops, which withers before
it grows up (Psalm 139:6; Matthew 13:6).
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 unattractive. A Christian, decked with the fruits of
righteousness, is beautiful and glorious.
4. Fruitfulness is good evidence to show for heaven;
the fruits of love, humility, and good works are (as Bernard said) seeds of
hope, signs of predestination, and the happy foretastes of future glory. The
righteousness of faith, is always accompanied with the fruits of
righteousness. He who can show good, fruit goes full sail to heaven!
5. God delights in His fruitful trees. When
His garden flourishes, He will walk there. He who curses the barren tree
will taste of the fruitful tree. Song of Solomon 5:1: "I am here in My
garden, My treasure, My bride! I gather My myrrh with My spices and eat My
honeycomb with My honey. I drink My wine with My milk."
This exhorts those who do bear fruit—to bring forth more
fruit. Do not think that you have enough fruit—but bring forth greater
degrees of sanctity. John 15:2: "He prunes every branch that produces fruit
so that it will produce more fruit." Grace is like the morning light which
increases more and more—to the full meridian of glory. Christians should be
like that ground in the parable which "produced a crop that was thirty,
sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted." (Matthew
13:8). He who has a little gold labors to increase it; and is not grace more
precious than gold?
Some Christians have a little fruit, and they think that
is well. They are like trees which have an apple or two growing on them to
show that they are of the right kind. They are like the church of
Philadelphia which had a little strength (Revelation 3:8). Just so, they
have a little faith and a spark of love. Christ chides a little faith
(Matthew 14:31). We "grow only as we get our nourishment and strength from
God" (Colossians 2:19). Christ compared the breasts of the spouse to
clusters of grapes for their fruitfulness (Song of Solomon 7:7). Oh,
labor to be Christians of high degrees! The apostle prayed that the love of
the Philippians might abound yet more and more (Philippians 1:9).
Now that I may press Christians who have fruit—to bring
forth more fruits of patience, humility, love, and the like. Consider that
this is the end why we have continual cost laid out upon us—that we should
bring forth more fruit. The Lord is still manuring us; not a week, not a
day—but He is at continual cost with us. He rains down golden showers; and
why is God at all this cost with us, but that we may bring forth more fruit?
The more fruit we bring forth, the more glory we bring to
God. John 15:8: "Herein is My Father glorified—that you bear much fruit."
Though it is a blessed sight to see any fruit, I would not discourage such
as bear but two or three olive berries; it is a sign they are not dead
trees. It is observable, the ground in the parable which brought forth a
small amount of fruit—Christ called "good ground" (Matthew 13:8). If the
farmer sees a thin ear which has but a little corn in it—yet he is glad to
see some fruit, and he carries it into the barn. So, though you are a thin
ear and do not have as much grace as others, God will not reject you. If
there is any fruit, God will accept it. He who gained but two talents
still heard, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" I say this that I may
not discourage the weak Christian; though you have less fruit growing on
you, you are too good a tree to be made fuel for the fire; you shall be
transplanted into paradise!
But I also say, do not rest in small beginnings—but labor
to put more oil in the lamp and be increasing your stock of grace; for the
more fruit you bring forth, the more glory God has. Though the lowest degree
of grace may bring salvation to you—yet it does not bring as much glory to
God. It is observable in the text, when the apostle had said, "filled
with the fruits of righteousness," he adds, "which are unto the glory and
praise of God." It is a praise to the farmer, and commends his skill and
industry—when the plants in his orchard thrive. Just so, when the plants of
righteousness flourish, this is to the praise of God's glory. It is the
highest end of the creature to bring glory to God. Better we lose our
lives—than lose the end of our living.
The fuller we are of fruit, the more we are like Christ,
who was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). He received the Spirit without
measure (John 3:34). This tree of life was ever bearing; and He brought
forth several sorts of fruit—wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and so
on. The more we are filled with the fruits of righteousness, the more we
resemble the Sun of Righteousness. We were elected to this end—to be made
like Christ (Romans 8:30); and we are most like this blessed Vine when we
bear full clusters.
The more fruit a Christian brings forth, the more will
Christ love him. "Surely now," said Leah, "my husband will feel affection
for me, since I have given him three sons!" (Genesis 29:34). When we bear
much fruit, then Christ's heart will be joined to us. Christ will pardon
a weak faith—but He will honor a great faith. It was not a
sparkle of faith which Christ commended in Mary Magdalene—but flaming
love. Luke 7:47: "She loved much." Christians, would you be like that
beloved disciple who leaned on the bosom of Jesus? Would you have much
love from Christ? Let Him have much fruit from you.
Bearing much fruit will usher in abundance of comfort
into the soul in the hour of temptation. Satan will be sure to besiege the
weakest Christian; all his darts fly that way, and a strong temptation
may overcome a weak faith. But a flourishing faith stands like a cedar,
and is not blown down by the wind of temptation. A strong faith can stop the
mouth of the devil, that roaring lion.
A store of fruit will also give comfort in the hour of
death. A little grace will make us above the danger of death—but high
degrees of grace will make us above the fear of death. Oh, what joy
it will be on the deathbed, when a Christian can bring his sheaves full of
corn, when he can show the five talents that he has gained by trading, when
there is not only a drop or two of oil—but his lamp full of
oil! What if the devil shows God our debts—if we can show him our fruit? Oh,
how sweet will death be! It will not be a destruction—but a
deliverance. Death, like a whirlwind, may blow down the tree of the
body—but it cannot blast the fruit of our graces. The trees of righteousness
carry their fruit with them. Revelation 14:13: "Their works follow them."
The Christian who abounds in holiness may say as Simeon did in Luke 2:29,
"Lord, now let You Your servant depart in peace." He who bears but a little
fruit departs in safety; but he who bears much fruit departs in
Consider what need we have to be putting forth still more
fruit; our graces are yet in their infancy. Indeed, in heaven this doctrine
will be out of season; we shall not need to hear it. Then we shall be done
growing, being arrived at our full stature. Then our light shall be clear
and our love perfect; but while we live here, there is something lacking in
our faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10). Therefore we need to increase the stock of
grace and bring forth more fruit. Our grace is eclipsed with sin; our faith
is full of unbelief. When the sun is eclipsed, it is by degrees getting out
of the eclipse and it shines brighter and brighter, and will recover its
perfect luster. So it must be with us: we must be getting out of the eclipse
until we arrive at our perfect luster in glory.
He who does not increase to more fruitfulness, will soon
be on the losing hand. He who has not more faith will quickly have less.
"You have left your first love." It is with grace as it is with fire: if it
is not fed and increased, it will soon decay. Such as do not thrive
in their spiritual estate, we may perceive sadly to decline. Though a
Christian cannot lose the seed of grace—yet he may lose the actings of grace
and the comfort of grace. Therefore, bring forth more fruit. No sooner does
a Christian begin to stand still—than you may perceive him going backward.
The more your fruit is increased, the more your
glory is increased. He whose pound gained ten more, was made ruler over
ten cities. If you would have your crown hung full of jewels, let
your boughs be hung full of fruit.
IV. Direction. I shall here lay down some
means to fruitfulness.
1. Be sensible of unfruitfulness. Any might
have been fruitful in grace if they had not conceited themselves so; he who
thinks himself fruitful enough—is barren enough. Be sensible of your needs;
it is better to know your spiritual leanness, than presume. "You say, 'I am
rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not
realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you
to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white
clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put
on your eyes, so you can see." Revelation 3:17-18
2. If you would be fruitful, remove those things which
will hinder fruitfulness, such as cherishing any secret lust in
the heart. Sin indulged—is like vermin to the tree, which destroys the
fruit. Grace cannot thrive in a sinful heart.
Avoid the love of riches. The cares of the world choked
the seed, in Matthew 13. The love of sin poisons the fruit; the love
of riches chokes it.
3. The third means to fruitfulness is weeping for sin.
Moisture helps growth in trees; holy tears water the trees of God
and make them more fruitful. Mary Magdalene, a weeping plant, how fruitful
was she in love to Christ! Moist grounds are most fertile; the soul that is
moistened and steeped in tears, is most fruitful. Never did David's graces
flourish more, than when he watered his couch with tears.
4. If you would be fruitful, often apply the blood of
Christ and His promises. Apply the blood of Christ. Naturalists
say that blood applied to the root of some trees makes them bear better
fruit. However that may be—I am sure that the blood of Christ applied to the
heart makes it flourish more in holiness. None are so fruitful as a
believer. "I know," said Paul, "whom I have believed." There was applying
blood to the root of the tree; and how fruitful he was in zeal, love for
Christ, and heroic courage! He who believes Christ died for him, never
thinks he can do or suffer enough for Christ. When we read and pray, then we
do but water the branches; when we believe, then we water the root of the
tree and make it fruitful.
Apply the promises. Farmers have an art to nourish the
root to make the tree bear better. The promises applied, are for nourishing
of a Christian, and then he puts forth fruit more vigorously. The root of
the pine tree watered with wine, causes it to flourish. The promises are as
wine to water the trees of righteousness, whereby they spread and increase
more in grace. Ever preserve the nourishment of the tree, if you would have
it bear fruit. A pensive, dejected soul is less fruitful; but when through
the promises a Christian's heart is cheered and comforted, then he is
enriched with pleasant fruits. He becomes like a tree laden with fruit.
5. Another means to fruitfulness is humility.
The low grounds are most fruitful. "The valleys are covered
with grain." (Psalm 65:13). The humble heart is the fruitful heart. The
largest and sweetest fruits of the Spirit, grow in a humble Christian. 1
Peter 5:5: "God gives grace to the humble." Paul called himself the least
of saints—yet he was the chief of the apostles. The virgin Mary
was low in her own eyes—but this lowly plant bore that blessed Vine which
brought the fruit of salvation to the world.
6. If you would be fruitful in grace, be much in godly
fellowship. Malachi 3:16: "Then those who feared the Lord spoke
often one to another." It is observed that some plants will bear better near
other trees, than when they grow alone—as is seen in the myrtle and olive
trees. This holds true in divinity also: the trees of righteousness, when
they associate and grow near together, thrive best in godliness. The
fellowship of saints is an excellent means for fruitfulness. Christians
increase one another's knowledge, strengthen one another's faith, and clear
one another's evidences. When the trees planted in God's orchard stand at a
distance and grow strange one to another, they are less fruitful.
7. If you would be fruit-bearing trees—be near the water
of the sanctuary. Jeremiah 17:8: "He shall be like a tree planted
by the waters, and that spreads out the roots by the river; her leaf shall
be green, nor shall it cease from yielding fruit." The Word preached will
not only make us knowing Christians—but growing Christians.
Ministers are compared to clouds in Isaiah 5:6; their doctrine drops as the
rain, and makes the trees of God fruitful. No wonder that they are barren
trees and near unto cursing, who are not under the droppings of the
sanctuary; a Christian can no more be fruitful without ordinances, than a
tree without showers.
8. And last, if you would fructify quickly—go to God and
implore Him to make you fruitful. God is called the gardener in
John 15:1, and He has an art above all other gardeners. They can plant and
prune trees—but if those trees are dead they cannot make them bear fruit.
God can make the barren tree bear fruit. He can put life into a dead tree!