The Spiritual Vine
by Thomas Watson
"I am the true vine." John 15:1
"Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth—for Your
love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of Your
perfumes; Your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love
You!" Song of Songs 1:2-3. Jesus Christ is the beauty of heaven—and the joy
of the heart, Revelation 21:23. In Him all the fullness dwells, Colossians
1:19. In this flower, is all sweetness. If the gospel is the field, Christ
is the treasure hidden in it. The knowledge of Christ is so precious
and delectable that, though Paul knew Him before—yet he desired to know more
of Him. He would have more light from this sun. "That I may know Him,"
Philippians 3:10, as he who has found a gold mine desires to dig out still
Jesus Christ in Scripture is set out by several
He is compared to the "rose of Sharon," Song of Solomon
2:1. The rose is the queen of flowers. So sweet is this rose of the heavenly
paradise, that it makes us a sweet savor to God, Ephesians 1:6.
Christ is compared to "a pearl of great price," Matthew
13:46. Other pearls add no real worth to those who wear them; but Christ,
this illustrious pearl, does! He makes us worthy through His worthiness,
But among all the metaphors and allegories in Scripture,
none are more lively reveals and sets out the beauty of Christ, than this
one of "the vine." He calls Himself here "the true vine." The vine,
said Pliny, is to be ranked the highest among all the plants that grow.
DOCTRINE 1. Jesus Christ is a spiritual vine.
The analogies are these:
The vine is, of itself, weak and must be supported and
borne up. Just so, the human nature of Christ was, of itself, weak and
needed to be supported and under-propped with the Divine nature.
The vine grows in the garden not in the forest; so
Christ, this blessed Vine, grows in the garden of the church. He is not
known among the heathen; they, being forest ground, are not the better for
The vine communicates to the branches. Believers are
called "branches of the vine," verse 5. Christ shoots up His sap of grace
into these branches. "From the fullness of his grace we have all received
one blessing after another," John 1:16. Then let not the branches grow
proud; all comes from the root of the vine. The saints' gifts and graces are
derived from Christ; therefore, He calls the spouse's graces His graces. "I
have gathered my myrrh," not your myrrh, Song of Solomon 5:1.
The branch has nothing, but what it receives from the root.
The vine has rare delicious fruit growing on it; it bears
sweet clusters. The promises are the clusters of grapes growing on Christ,
the true Vine. The promises are said to be in Him, 2 Corinthians 1:20. The
promises are made in Christ, and grow upon Him as fruit on the tree.
There are many things about the vine useful besides the
fruit. The leaves which grow on it, said Pliny, have a physical
virtue to allay fevers and inflamations; the gum that distills from
it is good against leprosy. So it is with this spiritual Vine, the Lord
Jesus. He is exceedingly useful and full of virtue. There is virtue in His
sufferings, resurrection, and intercession. He pleads for us, as the
advocate for the client. He perfumes our holy things with His incense.
Christ's prayer is the cause why our prayers are accepted. Such various
excellency is in this Vine.
See the different virtues in Christ to the godly and the
wicked. To the godly, He is a Vine full of comfort; to the wicked, he is not
a Vine—but a Rock of offense. The godly feed on Him; the wicked stumble on
Him. The wicked are offended at the baseness of Christ's person, the
spirituality of His doctrine, and the strictness of His laws; but to the
godly, He is a Vine yielding most fragrant, delicious fruit.
See the misery of men living and dying in sin. They are
not implanted into Christ; therefore, they do not at all partake of His
various fullness. The vine communicates influence only to its own
branches. The wild olive tree has no fruit from the vine. Such as abide
in the old stock of nature, branches of the wild olive, have no benefit from
Christ. It is cold comfort to the reprobate part of the world, that
there is a Vine growing which bears the fruit of salvation. As long as they
remain strangers to Christ and hate to be united with Him—fire will come out
of this Vine to devour them!
See the goodness of God! When we had forfeited the fruit
of paradise, He gave us a better tree than any which grew there. He has
enriched us with a pleasant Vine. When Christ suffered, now was this blessed
Vine nailed to the cross; now it was cut and bled; and salvation comes to us
in the blood of this Vine. The gleaning grapes here—are better than
the world's vintage. This spiritual Vine cheers the heart, Psalm 104:15. Are
we sad in the sense of our sins, and think ourselves unworthy to the Lord's
table? This wine of Christ's blood is a cordial. It is both the price
and seal of our pardon.
Also, the vine has a strengthening virtue. So, by
tasting the fruit of this Vine—we renew our strength. In the holy
celebration of the Lord's Supper, fresh influence and nourishment is
communicated to us. This spiritual Vine invigorated the saints and martyrs
of old, and infused a spirit of magnanimity into them.
That I may raise the saints' esteem of Christ, and that
they may come to the sacred supper with more eagerness to drink His blood,
I shall show wherein this true Vine surpasses in
glory all other vine trees.
1. In the vine, there is something not useful.
Though the fruit of the vine is sweet—yet the wood of the vine is not
useful; it is good for nothing. "Is wood ever taken from it to make anything
useful? Do they make pegs from it to hang things on?" Ezekiel 15:3. But it
is not so with Christ; there is nothing in this Vine which is not useful. We
have need of Christ's human nature to suffer—and His Divine nature to
satisfy. We have need of all of His offices, influences, and privileges.
There is nothing in Christ we can be without.
2. There are varieties of vine trees—but there is one
true Vine that brings redemption to mankind. The papists would
fetch comfort from more besides Christ—from the angels and the virgin Mary.
The angels themselves are indebted to this Vine, the Lord Jesus. They are by
Christ confirmed in their obedience, so that they cannot fall; and as for
the virgin Mary, though she was Christ's mother—yet she calls Christ
her Savior, Luke 1:47. The virgin Mary is saved not by bearing the
Vine—but by being engrafted into the Vine!
3. The vine bears but one sort of fruit—only grapes; but
the Lord Jesus bears several sorts of fruit.
This Vine bears the fruit of
justification. "Being justified through His blood," Romans 5:9.
In justification, there is remission of sin and imputation of righteousness.
A believer triumphs more in the imputed righteousness of Christ—than if he
had Adam's righteousness in innocence; nay, than if he had the angels'
righteousness, for now he has the righteousness of God! 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Without this, a sinner is put into a continual fever of conscience; but, by
virtue of justification, he arrives at a holy serenity. "Being, justified by
faith, we have peace with God," Romans 5:1.
This Vine bears the fruit of
sanctification. "He is made to us sanctification," 1 Corinthians
1:30. A man may have pleasant fruits growing in his orchard—and others be
never the better for it; but holiness in Christ is diffusive. This fruit is
for all the elect; they are made holy with Christ's holiness.
This spiritual Vine bears the fruit of
consolation. "His fruit was sweet to my
taste," Song of Solomon 2:3. When a believer has tasted some of this fruit
from Christ, he has had such transfigurations of soul and been filled with
such rapturous delight that he could be ready to say as Paul, "Whether in
the body I cannot tell." He has been put in heaven before his time.
4. A branch may be cut off and separated from the
vine—but no branch shall ever be separated from Christ, this heavenly Vine.
Some tell us that a justified person may fall away finally. Is not Christ a
perfect Vine? He is not perfect if a living branch may be plucked off from
Him. Has not Christ said of His elect, "I give them eternal life, and they
will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand!" John 10:28.
If any branch is plucked away from Christ, it is either because Christ is
not able to keep it—or because He is willing to lose it. He is
surely able to keep it, for He is strengthened with the Godhead; and
He is not willing to lose it, for why, then, would He have shed His
blood for it? So that no branch shall ever be separated from the celestial
Vine. You may sooner pluck a star out of the sky—than a true believer from
Christ. Indeed, hypocrites who look like branches, fall off—but they were
never really in the Vine. They were in Christ by profession, not by
union. They were tied on to the vine but not engrafted.
An elect branch can no more perish than the root!
5. The wine that comes from the true Vine, is better than
any other. Wine from the grape delights the palate; but Christ's
blood cheers the conscience.
One may take too great a quantity of wine—and then it
bites as an adder! But it is otherwise with the wine which Christ gives; we
cannot have too much of it, as a man cannot have too much health. Christ's
blood is pardoning and pacifying, and the more we drink of it, the better;
the deeper it is, the sweeter, Song of Solomon 5:1. The death of the soul is
not by drinking too much of Christ's blood—but by refusing to drink.
Wine will cheer a man when he is living, not when he is
dead. Wine in a dead man's mouth loses its virtue—but Christ's blood has
such a life-giving virtue in it. It so sparkles, and is so full of spirits,
that it will fetch life in those that are dead. If they are dead in sin, the
blood of Christ makes them revive. "He who drinks My blood has eternal
life," John 6:54.
The wine which comes from the grape only cheers man's
heart—but that wine that is distilled from Christ, the heavenly Vine,
cheers God's heart. The Lord smelled a sweet savor in the wine of
God's blood, and was so infinitely pleased and delighted with it—that for
this He spared all His people.
USE. Labor to be real branches of this
spiritual Vine. What was the old world the better—to hear of an ark
unless they got into the ark? So, what are we the better to hear
of a Vine unless we are in this Vine?
QUESTION. How shall we know that we are in this Vine?
ANSWER 1. By being engrafted into the Vine. Faith is the
engrafting grace. And herein, faith has a peculiar excellency above
other graces. Other graces make us like Christ—but faith makes us
one with Christ. Other graces make us living pictures of
Christ—but faith makes us living branches of Christ. By love and
humility we imitate Christ—but by faith we are implanted into
Him, as the scion is engrafted into the tree. Let us, therefore, examine
whether we have this engrafting grace. Faith admires Christ's beauty,
confides in His merits, and submits to His laws. Faith gives up its will,
its love, and its life to Christ. Faith has two hands; with one it
takes Christ for its sin-offering, with the other it gives up itself to
Christ as a burnt-offering.
ANSWER 2. We may know we are in the Vine by receiving
influence from the Vine.
A vital influence. "The Son gives life to
whom He is pleased to give it," John 5:21. And this life from Christ is
evidenced by feeling. We are sensible of the first ebullitions and risings
of corruption, Romans 7:23, and of the least ebbings of grace. "Who have
their senses exercised to discern both good and evil," Hebrews 5:14.
A sanctifying influence. The root of this Vine,
being holy, makes all the branches holy. Has Christ diffused some of His
divine unction into us? Are our hearts consecrated? Do we set ourselves
against every evil—as against poison? Do we forsake sin not only out of
policy—but antipathy? Are we, by the power of grace, transformed and made
partakers of the Divine nature? Are we meek, humble, and zealous? Is the
frame of our heart spiritual? Does our pulse still beat after God? Is our
aim sincere? Do we not only advance God's glory—but aim at
God's glory? Behold here, a sanctifying virtue derived from Christ into us!
We need not doubt but we are branches of the true Vine—and shall grow and
flourish in Him to eternity!
Also, you who are believers stand and wonder that, when
you were by nature the vine of Sodom, Deuteronomy 32:32, a vine
wallowing in your blood, Ezekiel 19:10, a wild vine which not only
cumbered the ground, but poisoned it—that God should take such
degenerate branches and plant you into Christ, and make you partake of the
spiritual juice and fat of this Vine! Oh, the unfathomable depth of God's
You who are the branches of this Vine, let me beseech you
to love the Vine which bears you—kiss and embrace Christ! Let your souls
sound forth hallelujahs to the whole Trinity. Admire God the
Father in sending a Vine from heaven; admire God the Son who was
a bleeding Vine for you; admire God the Holy Spirit who has, by His
mighty power, implanted you into this Vine. Turn all your sullen
discontentments, into triumphant songs! You who were once dead—are now made
living branches! You who were once unclean—are now made holy branches! You
who once brought forth thistles—you now bear luscious grapes! Oh, make
melody in your hearts to the Lord! Admire and celebrate free grace! It is
well that there is an eternity coming—and that will be little enough time to
USE. Here is consolation to all who are
implanted into Christ, this spiritual Vine. Let the times be what they will,
you have never so much cause to be sad—as you have to rejoice. "As
sorrowful—yet always rejoicing," 2 Corinthians 6:10. Hearken to me, you
branch of Christ. What if you have little in the world, seeing you partake
of the blessing of the Vine, even of all the fullness of God, Ephesians
What if you are reproached? It is honor enough that you
are in Christ. This Vine, being a plant of renown, casts a glory upon all
the branches, Isaiah 28:5. What if you are told by the tempter, that Christ
does not love you? You may reply, "I am engrafted into Christ! The holy sap
of His grace is infused into me!"
What if you are are persecuted? Be of good cheer; you
have a life hidden in the Vine. "Your life is hidden with Christ,"
Colossians 3:3. Fear not. If you cannot live without molestation in this
earthly wilderness, you shall grow in paradise! When Basil was threatened
with banishment, he comforted himself with this, "Either I shall be under
heaven or in heaven." Oh, how may all the branches of the true
Vine flourish with joy! Let death come, they may triumph. Death shall
destroy sin—and perfect grace!
In particular, there is COMFORT
to all the real branches of Christ in these four cases:
1. It is comfort under fear of spiritual barrenness.
afraid," says the saint, "that I shall grow dead at last
and be like that barren fig tree in the gospel, which was cursed." But, for
your comfort, know that the branches of this spiritual Vine never cease
yielding fruit. Indeed, ordinary vine trees, though they are, for a time,
fruitful—yet, when they grow old, they grow barren; but the branches of the
true Vine are never so old as to be past bearing fruit. "They shall still
bring forth fruit in old age," Psalm 92:14. Believers, the longer they
live—the more they live of faith, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, the more they are
perfumed with Christ's love. The church of Thyatira, the older she
grew, the better she grew. Her last works were more than her
first, Revelation 2:19. What a great deal of fruit, did Paul bring
forth not long before his death! This light shone brighter before his
setting. "I labored more abundantly than they all," 1 Corinthians 15:10.
As long as there is a fullness in Christ, believers shall not lack. This
holy Vine, being replenished with sap, the branches cannot fail to be
fertile. "Because I live—you shall live also," John 14:19. Because the
root lives, therefore the branches shall flourish with fruit!
2. It is comfort in wrongs and injuries, especially when
endured for Christ's sake. The Lord Jesus is sensible of this,
and will one day vindicate His people. The Vine is sensible of all the
injury done to the branches. "I have seen, I have seen the affliction of My
people," Acts 7:34. Not only have I seen them with an eye of inspection—but
affection. Christ bleeds in the saints' wounds. He who knows their
sufferings, feelingly will avenge them speedily.
3. It is comfort under fear of falling away.
"I am afraid," said a Christian, "that I shall tire before I get to heaven.
Either I shall be blown down by Satan's temptations—or faint under
sufferings." Oh, remember you are a branch in Christ, and you cannot be
broken off! Adam, when he grew upon his own root of innocence,
withered; but you grow upon Christ's root. Therefore, your grace
shall flourish into perseverance. Though you are but as a branch which hangs
on a tree—you will never drop off because Christ holds you! It is not your
holding Christ—but His holding you, which preserves you. He repels the force
of temptation, overpowers the remains of indwelling corruption, and
increases the spark of grace. "We are kept by the power of God," 1 Peter
1:5. The Greek word means "kept as in a garrison."
4. It is comfort when the world hates us.
Jerome blessed God that he was counted worthy, to be one whom the world
hated. What if you are maligned and hated? God loves all the branches of the
true Vine; nay, He loves them as He loves the root. "That the world may know
that You have loved them—as You have loved Me," John 17:23. It is the
same love for kind, though not degree.
God the Father loved Christ from eternity. "You love Me
before the foundation of the world," John 17:24. And so He loves believers.
"He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world," Ephesians 1:4.
Our love to God began late. We may remember the time when we had no love in
our hearts sparkling towards God. But God's love to us, bears date from
God's love to Christ is a love of immutability, and so it
is to believers. The sun of electing love, having risen upon them—never
sets. Death may take away their life—but not God's love. "Though the
mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you
will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who
has compassion on you." Isaiah 54:10. The Lord may change His love into a
frown—but He will never change His love into hatred. God can no
more hate a believer than He can Christ, for a believer is part of Christ.
He is Christ-mystical. What a comfort is this! God loves the branches as
much as He loves the Root, and the fruit of God's
love to the elect branches, appears in two things:
In pruning them. "I am the true vine, and my
Father is the gardener. Every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that
it will be even more fruitful." John 15:1-2. He prunes them by affliction.
We are apt to think that, when God afflicts us, He does not love us. A
farmer loves his vine never a whit less, because he prunes it. Affliction is
God's pruning knife. He prunes us to make us bring forth the peaceable fruit
of righteousness, Hebrews 12:11. God would rather have the branches bleed,
than be barren. All this is love. It is God's love, that He will rather lop
and prune the branches than let them grow wild.
In transplanting them to heaven. The branches of
Christ will thrive best when they are transplanted; and good reason, because
then they will grow in a better soil. Christ desires to have all His
branches, which are scattered up and down in the world, to be with Him.
"Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am." John
17:24. The elect will never be happy—until they are transplanted to the
heavenly garden; then they will grow quietly. In heaven, there will be no
bramble to tear the vine branches; none of the red dragon's race. Then all
the branches will be sweetly united in love. Then they shall grow in the
sunshine. God's countenance will be ever shining upon them. In this life,
they partake of God's grace; hereafter, they shall partake of His