Every Branch That Beareth Fruit, He Cleanseth It, That It
May Bear More Fruit--John 15:2
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There are two remarkable things
about the vine. There is not a plant of which the fruit has so
much spirit in it, of which spirit can be so abundantly distilled
as the vine. And there is not a plant which so soon runs into
wild wood, that hinders its fruit, and therefore needs the most
merciless pruning. I look out of my window here on large vineyards:
the chief care of the vinedresser is the pruning. You may have
a trellis vine rooting so deep in good soil that it needs neither
digging, nor manuring, nor watering: pruning it cannot dispense
with, if it is to bear good fruit. Some tree needs occasional
pruning; others bear perfect fruit without any: the vine must
have it. And so our Lord tells us, here at the very outset of
the parable, that the one work the Father does to the branch that
bears fruit is: He cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit.
Consider a moment what this pruning
or cleansing is. It is not the removal of weeds or thorns, or
anything from without that may hinder the growth. No; it is the
cutting off of the long shoots of the previous year, the removal
of something that comes from within, that has been produced by
the life of the vine itself. It is the removal of something that
is a proof of the vigor of its life; the more vigorous the growth
has been, the greater the need for the pruning. It is the honest,
healthy wood of the vine that has to be cut away. And why? Because
it would consume too much of the sap to fill all the long shoots
of last year's growth: the sap must be saved up and used for fruit
alone. The branches, sometimes eight and ten feet long, are cut
down close to the stem, and nothing is left but just one or two
inches of wood, enough to bear the grapes. It is when everything
that is not needful for fruit-bearing has been relentlessly cut
down, and just as little of the branches as possible has been
left, that full, rich fruit may be expected.
What a solemn, precious lesson!
It is not to sin only that the cleansing of the Husbandman here
refers. It is to our own religious activity, as it is developed
in the very act of bearing fruit. It is this that must be cut
down and cleansed away. We have, in working for God, to use our
natural gifts of wisdom, or eloquence, or influence, or zeal.
And yet they are ever in danger of being unduly developed, and
then trusted in. And so, after each season of work, God has to
bring us to the end of ourselves, to the consciousness of the
helplessness and the danger of all that is of man, to feel that
we are nothing. All that is to be left of us is just enough to
receive the power of the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit. What
is of man must be reduced to its very lowest measure. All that
is inconsistent with the most entire devotion to Christ's service
must be removed. The more perfect the cleansing and cutting away
of all that is of self, the less of surface over which the Holy
Spirit is to be spread, so much the more intense can be the concentration
of our whole being, to be entirely at the disposal of the Spirit.
This is the true circumcision of the heart, the circumcision of
Christ. This is the true crucifixion with Christ, bearing about
the dying of the Lord Jesus in the body.
Blessed cleansing, God's own cleansing!
How we may rejoice in the assurance that we shall bring forth
O our holy Husbandman, cleanse and
cut away all that there is in us that would make a fair show,
or could become a source of self-confidence and glorying. Lord,
keep us very low, that no flesh may glory in Thy presence. We
do trust Thee to do Thy work.