The Root and Fruit of CHristianity
by JOSEPH IRONS
Delivered in Grove Chapel, Camberwell, Lord's day Morning, June 23rd, 1850
O Lord God of hosts, fulfil this promise in our experience this day. I trust there are some, yea many, before God this morning of the remnant that are escaped, whom we shall presently have to describe. I trust there are some who belong to the distinguished tribe of Judah, which we shall have to turn our attention to. I trust there are many who are not artificial trees, but who have got a root, and the root is taking deeper hold downwards. I trust there are some here living under the gracious injunction of our Lord "I have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." (John 15:16) And God grant they may not be grapes of Sodom or the apple of Gomorrah, for if the fruit remains which is described in God's own word, the promise will be fulfilled in your experience, "Ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7)
The history in which our text is placed is a very affecting one. All the tribes of Israel save Judah and Benjamin had gone after Jeroboam, and had gone into captivity on account of their sins, Hezekiah, that godly prince, was reigning in Jerusalem over the two tribes. An invasion is set on foot by the king of Assyria, and a most insulting and blasphemous letter is sent to Hezekiah, demanding his subjection. Hezekiah does as all good and wise men will do by such documents, lay them before the Lord. And what is God's answer? Why, "he shall not come nigh thee;" He says, "he shall not cast up a trench against thee, nor shoot an arrow at thee." God heard his prayer, and sent him deliverance, and though Judah was exceedingly lessened and debilitated, it was not to be the victim of that tyrant's rage, and therefore God says concerning this deliverance, "Because thy rage against me, and thy tumult, is come up into my ears; therefore will I put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest." "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward."
Now I think if we attempt, under Divine teaching, to put this precious promise into a gospel mould, and speak of it as pointing to the attainment of innumerable gospel blessings, we shall not be disappointed in obtaining a portion for our souls this morning. And in order to this, let me first of all speak of the remnant that are said to have escaped. Then of their being the offspring of a distinguished tribe, the remnant of Judah, who will not mingle with those falsely called Israelites, who have submitted to Jeroboam's reign. Then, in the third place, we will consider the origin of their life, they have a root. Upon this we intend to be a little probing, for we want to get at the root, that there may be no mistake. And then, in the last place, we shall offer a thought or two about their tendency upward with fruitfulness, "They shall bear fruit upward." And if we are a little high, do not think we are above the text. Now, beloved, I want our serious and prayerful attention to these four things, which I shall endeavour to put before you in as concise a manner as I can.
I. First of all, the remnant that are said to have escaped. Truly, this is a description of the Lord's Church in every age. My dear Lord has set it down for the use of His disciples, that "broad is the road that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat, but strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matt. 7:13,14)only the remnant. You will bear in mind that in Elijah's days he thought the remnant smaller than it was, and perhaps I am nearly as limited in my view as he was. "Lord," said he, "Israel have gone after Baal, and they have thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets, and abandoned thy worship, and I only am left, and they seek my life to take it away." (1 Kings 19:10) I cannot suppose that Elijah meant that he was the only elect vessel of mercy, but that he was the only prominent character, the only public man, the only one who dared to be very zealous for the Lord God of Israel, to use his own words, says Jezebel, "The Lord do so to me and more also (and He was as good as His word), if the head of Elijah stand on him this day." But what saith the Lord unto Elijah? "No," says He, "it is a mistake, I have reserved to me seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." (1 Kings 19:18) But what were seven thousand men among the many thousands of Israel's tribes? What are seven thousand, if I were to limit it only to the millions that occupy our long-favoured isle, that have not bowed the knee to Baal nor kissed his lips? Oh, my hearers, the term remnant in Scripture is a very affecting one, for the apostle, adverting to this very history of Elijah, says, "Even so, now, also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." (Rom. 11:5) What is a remnant? Why, if I were to take a draper's phrase, it would be supposed to be a fag end that was worth little or nothing after the bulk was gone. If I were to take the meaning of numbers with regard to a remnant, it is just such a remnant as Nebuchadnezzar left of the children of Israel to be tillers and dressers of the land.
This remnant that is left in great distress. This is generally the character of the Lord's people in every age of the world. A "little flock." In one passage it is called a very small remnant. "Unless the Lord had left us a very small remnant, we had been as Sodom and like unto Gomorrah." In conversing with a proud priest once, he put this forth: "I choose to belong to the great multitude, which must be right, a little few may be mistaken." I said, "My Bible speaks directly the reverse to that, it says the multitude are all wrong; you may go if you like along with the multitude to do evil, I choose to cast in my lot with the very small remnant." Now a peculiar characteristic of this very small remnant is, that they have escaped. They are apart from the great bulk of professors. The great bulk of professors have departed from the truth, and degenerated to the spirit of the world. You must bear with my severity, I am waiting for God's salvation every day, and I mean to be as severe as I can so long as I have any breath to speak for Him, that you may have no blood to charge upon me. Bear with me then, while I insist that the great bulk of professors have departed from the truth, that if they have not abandoned it altogether, if they have not avowedly disowned it, if they have not in so many words declared that they disbelieve it, they put it forth in such an ambiguous manner, in such doubtful phraseology, and in such a diluted form, that the great majority of the Lord's people are at a loss to understand what they mean at all, and when they do, it is a dialect they cannot speak, a food they cannot eat, a teaching they cannot learn, a gospel they cannot but despise. But there is a little remnant apart from these, of whom Jehovah thus proclaims His mind and will by the prophet "Open ye the gates that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in." (Isa. 26:2) Observe the description, "keepeth the truth." And the Lord does keep His remnant up to the mark of truth, and He will not allow that it shall be diluted, and degenerated, and degraded, and linked with the heresies of mortals. But we have to keep it pure and clean. Oh! The vast importance of the lessons taught in Old Testament economy upon this point. For instance, "Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed." (Levit. 19:19) I should like that written in large characters on some conspicuous part of every minister's study, and on the fore-front of the gallery of his chapel, that he may have it continually before him. "Thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed." A little between thumb and finger of free-grace, and an handful of free-will to check it. But "thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed" is the express command of God. Again: "Thou shalt not wear a garment of linen and woollen." They will not do to weave together, at any rate in the sight of God. Man may accommodate them literally, if he likes, I do not like them even that way, but let God have His own way with the garment we are to wear, and we must not have the righteousness made partly of the righteousness of Christ, and partly of creature overtures, possibilities, peradventures, and contingencies. This is distinctly and wilfully violating the express command of God. We are to "go forth bearing precious seed," and even if we go forth weeping with it, on account of the hard and rocky places on which we have to cast it, or the opposition we may meet with, or the enemy coming to sow tares with it, God helping us we will sow nothing but precious seed, as a good man said the other day winnowed with the fan and shovel, pure and clean, even the incorruptible seed. This is not the case in nineteen instances out of twenty now-a-days. I do not care if you call me censorious, I have no desire to be redeemed from the character of censoriousness in my old age, I know it is so, and therefore I warn my hearers concerning it. Now the remnant of Judah love a clean corn floor love a clean seed basket, clean and pure gospel doctrines, and they have escaped the false doctrines that are vain and superstitious, they have escaped the tide of fashion in the day in which we live.
Moreover, in connection with a departure from the truth, you will also find a degeneracy to the spirit of the world, they always go hand in hand. The men who hold themselves apart from the world, and live as a people that dwell alone, and who belong to the Lord God of Jacob, are those who live on pure incorruptible seed, who hold fast the doctrines of God's eternal grace, but the half-Arminianised, the self-righteous, the free-will advocates have the spirit of the world, they can depart from the purity, and holiness, and circumspection which characterizes the people of God, and associate with the vanities, the toys, and the trifles which they are prone to dub innocent, because they suit their carnal minds; and consequently the tribe of Judah must hold themselves aloof, must escape from the degeneracy that has thus tainted the greater part of the Christian professing world, and live as an isolated family belonging unto God.
But mark further, I pray you, it is written concerning this remnant of the house of Judah, that it has escaped. I dwelt partly upon this; but I conceive the escape to have a little further application. They have escaped from the reigning power of sin; they have escaped from the sentence of the law; they have escaped from self and self-confidence, and they have escaped from all apprehension of the second death. My hearer, have you made your escape, in these senses? Do you belong to the tribe of Judah, which we shall presently attempt to describe, having thus escaped as a remnant of it? Is the promise fulfilled in your experience, "Sin shall not have the dominion?" It will try for it; it will argue for it; but there runs the promise, "shall not have dominion," but "grace shall reign through righteousness unto eternal life." Have you escaped from the sentence of the law, and can you exultingly sing as the apostle did, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit?" Have you felt the sweetness of justification and forgiveness applied, the blessed assurance that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth?" (Rom. 10:4) Have you been brought to this sacred, heart-cheering point, that the law, with all its demands, is met, and fulfilled, and magnified, and made honourable for you, so that you can delight in it after the inner man, without a single moment's dread of it or of its threatening? Moreover, they have escaped from self-confidence, a very woeful stronghold of the devil. Perhaps there is nothing to which the natural man is more prone than self-confidence; and when that self-confidence touches upon soul-assurance, soul-prosperity,, soul-perseverance, it is the most dangerous position a man can occupy. Now, the tribe of Judah have learned that "he that trusteth in his own heart is a fool," and they are not disposed to be guilty of such folly. They have learned that "blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord." The apostle Paul seemed to be of that tribe (literally speaking, indeed, he was so; for he was "of the tribe of Judah," which is always coupled with Benjamin), when he said, "We are the circumcision, who worship God in spirit, who rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phil. 3:3) He goes on to say that he did not learn this in his pharisaic days. He said, "If any man had aught to boast, I more; circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews," (Phil. 3:5) father's side and mother's side, born legitimately, his whole life characteristic of the Pharisees; "touching the righteousness of the law blameless," in the sight of men. No one could find fault with his conduct. I suppose, with the exception of his persecution of the Church of Christ, no one could find spot or blemish in the moral deportment of Saul of Tarsus; so rigid was he in the observance of externals, and forms and ceremonies; yet by-and-bye all this confidence in the flesh is gone. He might have had it more than any man; "But those things," he says, "which were gain to me, I counted loss for Christ, and now place myself among those who have no confidence in the flesh." Well, then, that is the moment for the poor soul to become confident in the Lord; and if you have no confidence in yourself, I pray you hold on (if I may be allowed so to speak) the Rock of Ages, and embrace it for want of a shelter, and rest upon the Person, official character, and perfect work of Christ. I know I have been censured by some poor, squeamish Arminians, about having such confidence. Now, I pray you, if any such are present, go and censure God, do not censure me; I did not create it, I did not implant it, I do not make it grow; it came from above, and with this sovereign injunction, "Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward." If your confidence is in self, in creature doings, the sooner you cast it away, the better; but if your confidence is in the love of God the Father, the official character and perfect work of God the Son, and the unctuous anointings of God the Holy Ghost, cast it not away, for it has "great recompense of reward.
Moreover, those that belongs to the tribe of Judah, have escaped all apprehension of the second death, for you know it is written, "Blessed is he that hath part in the first resurrection," (Rev. 20:6) that is raised up with Christ together, to sit with Him in heavenly places, (Eph. 2:6) who has experienced a resurrection from dead works to serve the living God "on such the second death hath no power." Well, then, they shall never die. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that liveth and believeth on me, shall never die." (John 11:25) So that this is the remnant that has escaped, set apart from the great bulk of professors, saying, "No confederacy" to them who would say, "A confederacy," but among those of whom Moses spake in his blessing, "Lo! The people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations." (Num. 23:9) Oh, the vast importance of being numbered with God's few, God's chosen race, the tribe of Judah!
II. Now let us pass on, in the second place, to glance at their being the offspring of a distinguished tribe. I dwell with sacred delight upon this, because, although Joseph had an exuberance of blessings pronounced upon him by his fond father, and he probably realized them all, both in a temporal and spiritual point of view; yet the true dignity rested upon the house of Judah, and Reuben, and Simeon, and Levi are passed by, nothing is said to their credit, nothing said in the way of promise, and yet they belonged, literally, to the patriarch. Judah was he whom his brethren should praise, and he is distinguished as the first in the patriarchal blessing. Turn again, for a few moments, to the chapter we have been reading in the hearing of some of you. When the patriarch comes to Judah's name, he says, "Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be on the neck of thine enemies; thy father's children shall bow down before thee." You are well aware that the tribe of Judah had so much the pre-eminence, that when the tribes of Israel were marching through the wilderness, and they marched from the fore sides of the encampment, according to God's order, the tribe of Judah went first. So, also, when they were to go up and take possession of the land of their enemies. He is put first under the hand of the Lord, as well as under the blessing of the old patriarch. Then, again, we read in this blessing, "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a law-giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." Now this is most strikingly brought out by the declaration of the prophet Hosea about this law-giver, that while all the other tribes had degenerated, God thus speaks of them, "Ephraim compasseth me about with lies, and the house of Israel with deceit." These solemn charges stand awfully against the bulk of professors in the present day. "But Judah yet ruleth with God" the sceptre was with him" and is faithful with the saints."
I beseech you to mark here, beloved, the gospel sense of this declaration, that Judah, the little chosen few, the Lord's own living Church, have the sceptre among them, the sceptre of righteousness of their glorious Lord, who sprang out of Judah, and is ruling and reigning among them; and Judah is still faithful with the saints, cannot deal treacherously and ambiguously, is honest with the saints of God, so distinguished above all His brethren was Judah. I beseech you to mark, according to the passage from the Hebrews which I have just cited, that our Lord sprang out of Judah. The apostle is arguing about the priesthood and the law having changed, and insisting that Christianity is not after the Aaronic, but after the order of Melchizedec, and as he says, "It is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah, of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood."
Pass on just to mark, that in the strongest and most positive terms the order of the priesthood, under the Christian dispensation, is centred wholly in Christ, and that all other priests belong to Aaron, and ought to own themselves Jews or Mahometans at once, and not dare to call themselves Christians. All the priesthood of an official kind under the Christian dispensation belongs to Christ, and Judah was the tribe that had the honour of the Lord springing from them. Let me just pause one moment here to mark, that the tribe of Judah spiritually, as I have been attempting to mark them, are the very tribe where our Lord dwells and where He reigns. His presence is enjoyed, His love-tokens are felt, the joys of His salvation are experienced amongst those that are a minority in point of numbers, the little flock that He has chosen and redeemed for Himself.
Just mark further, that this chosen tribe was peculiarly beloved of the Lord, peculiarly distinguished from all around, and peculiarly honoured with success in all their wars, nor was it possible for any of their enemies to overcome them till they departed from the truth; and you will read at your leisure the account both in the Kings and in the Chronicles, and again, by Isaiah, of how at last Judah was carried away captive, Judah was vanquished, Jerusalem sacked, her temple and her walls demolished, and the last tribe that held out for the truth dispersed all over the world. I have read this with a most affecting sensation, and I have made up my mind, that inasmuch as He has His tribe of Judah yet in England, He will not suffer them to depart from His truth, nor degenerate to the spirit of the world, nor abandon the doctrines of grace, nor depart from the living God, and the great realities of His gospel, but that He will give them grace to persevere in their ardent attachment to His truth, amidst all the evils that surround them in the wilderness, as long as He intends to preserve England.
Now I must invite your attention for a moment to their history after the death of Solomon. You will recollect that Jeroboam succeeded him, on account of the imprudence of Rehoboam the son of Solomon, in causing ten tribes to revolt, and to depart from the covenant line, and to say with a loud shout, "We have no part in David, nor any inheritance in the son of Jesse," and poor Rehoboam, owning to his taking counsel of the young men (certainly they must have been young fools), that were brought up with him, and despising the counsel of old men, was left with Judah alone, and was warred with by Jeroboam as long as they lived; and then in the midst of this revolt it is expressly written, that Judah abode in the house of David and followed not after the house of Jeroboam, kept to the covenant line, that when all around were revolting from God, Judah abode by the ark; and I think I see the tribe blessed and preserved of God amidst all the revolt that was around, and we find it was very considerable. They had their temple, and they had their ark, and all the priests took refuge with them, having fled from Jeroboam, and the work of God was carried on purely for a length of time, until at length degeneracy took place, then came the destruction and the dispersion. "Verily, He is a God that judgeth in the earth," and I would exhort my hearers to send up their daily fervent cries, that God's Judah yet dwelling in dear old England may not be suffered to degenerate further, that they may be stirred up in their attachment to the ark of the covenant, and the covenant line, and the covenant king David, the type of the Saviour, and worship God in spirit and in truth, lest the candlestick be removed out of His places from among us, which I solemnly apprehend, unless God ceases an immediate revival of vital godliness, will soon take place. God Almighty prevent it of His infinite mercy!
III. Now we will pass on to glance at the origin of their life. They had a root. I wanted to come to this point, because there are not a few who answer to the description which our Lord gave of rootless professors in His day. "These having no root in themselves, wither away." What a number of withering professors have I seen! And in contrast to them, what a number have I seen that have stood many a wintry blast, many a heavy storm, many a shower of arrows from the archer as Joseph did, many a sore temptation, many an internal conflict, many a buffeting from the adversary, many a sorrowing scene, many a hard fight. And yet there they stand, neither can the sword cut them down, nor the howling blast blow them down, nor the tempest destroy them. "How is this?" Say you. They have a root in themselves; as Job said "the root of the matter is found in me."
Now I wish my hearers diligently to mark this distinction of character. What is a root? Why, it is a concealed, hidden life. If we look at many of our trees in our garden, they are bringing us fruit at this time of the year; we do not expect to see the root, we even take some mould, and cover it up, it must be hid, kept out of sight. My hearer, if you have no more religion than what is seen, you have no more than the devil has; if you have no more religion than what is seen, it is not worth your possessing. I have known instances in which the Lord's people have been subjected to such wintry seasons, that no fruit, no bud, no leaf, no twig of life has been seen; but there has been a root, and when the spring-time has come, it has shown that it had a concealed hidden life. I suppose that if many persons who knew nothing about the properties of trees and agriculture, were to look upon some trees in our garden in the depth of winter, they would say, "That's dead; there's nothing to be seen but a dry stick." I should say, on the contrary, "There's life in the root; the sap has gone down." I think nothing can look more ugly than the branches of the vine in winter; but when the sap rises in the spring, how beautifully it grows! So the real Christian has a hidden life. Says the apostle, "Ye are dead" as dead in yourselves, to all appearance, as if ye had no life; but, says he, ye have a life, which is "hid with Christ in God;" (Col. 3:3) and there is a root, after all, there is sap, there is life in you, a hidden life, which is concealed from the world. Aye, the world may dig, and plough, and harrow, as long as they please; the root will evade all their search, and they will never discover what it is; they must possess it, in order to know it.
Now, beloved, what think you for yourselves? Examine the matter. If you have no life in ordinances, have you found it in the closet? If you have no life under the sermon, have you found it in the Bible? If you have no life in the closet, and it is almost like a dungeon, have you now and then a little spurting forth of sap in ejaculatory petitions, and earnest cries, and ardent longings? Verily, there is life in the root, if there is even this. I entreat you not to cast away your confidence. I would advise you to cast away your unbelief. Do not expect it to be fruit time all the year round; expect wintry seasons, and cultivate much all the sap there is in the root, vital godliness, derived from Christ, in virtue of union with Him in constant supplies for the stem and all the branches. And hence the whole Church of God is said to receive "grace for grace" out of the fullness of Christ.
Moreover, it is an abiding and downward-growing principle. My text says, "They shall take root downwards." I have very little hope of our principles, unless this is the case. I believe it will be admitted that most trees in the winter season, when, perhaps, the sharp frost has sealed up, like a rock, the face of the earth, underneath, where the frost cannot reach, the root is striking down further and further, getting a firmer hold, and strengthening itself by the fibres which it puts forth for future use. So in our wintry seasons; we make no display, we enjoy no sensible comfort, there is nothing in us that the world or the Church can recognize as fruitfulness; yet, if "the root of the matter" is in us, as Job describes it, and Christ dwell in our hearts the hope of glory, we are all that time of apparent barrenness, gathering fresh strength within, the secret, concealed life, is extending and spreading, and the fibres of that root are overturning vile corruptions, and all that is carnal and earthly, and spreading the life of God through the powers of the soul, under the mighty operations of the graces of the Holy Spirit; and, by-and-bye, when the winter is gone again, and "the time of the singing of birds is come," as Solomon expresses it, and "the voice of the turtle is heard in the land," and the sun shines, you will find the bud, and the blossom, and the leaf, and the fruit appearing; and therefore the Lord Jesus invites His spouse, "Come, let us go into the garden; let us see how the vine flourisheth, and how the pomegranate putteth forth the bud." (Songs 7:12) Let us see whether the sap is rising, let us see whether it is actually producing fruitfulness, coming into manifestation, as well as personal enjoyment.
Then again, there is a peculiar property about this hidden life, that it penetrates into the very rock, aye, and will grow best there. This tribe of Judah can grow no where else but on a rock; they like to take deep root on the Rock of Ages, and if they cannot grow there, they can grow no where; and, sure I am, they grow stronger and higher than any others, and therefore they are called, like their Master, "very high," and "high-doctrine men," and the like. I hope I shall never lose that character as long as I live. Moreover, while others bring forth only a little fruit on the head, this tribe of Judah brings forth fruit from their very first knowledge of Christ; and as long as they live, therefore Christ says, "I have ordained you to go forth and bear much fruit." (John 15:16) This is just a description of the Lord's peculiar tribe. Their source of life is only in Christ, derived from Him, and the sap flows up into every branch and twig of this tribe, to bring forth much fruit unto God.
May I here pause to enjoin upon my hearers the vast importance of an increase of fruitfulness. Look well to it. My Lord says, "By their fruit ye shall know them;" (Matt. 7:16) and if I am to know nothing about your fruitfulness till you get up to make a little head, a little public profession, how am I to judge of you as belonging to God? I want your fruit to abound on all sides, at every inch of your growth, every day; yea, I want you to be like the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, yielding your fruit every month, continually producing fruit; and even in wintry seasons, and trying times, there should be at least the fruits of humility, and self-abasement, and meekness, and gentleness, the fruits of the mind of Christ. And this is taking root downwards. Now, be sure of this, that the more deeply you take root downwards, in the sense I have been attempting to intimate, upon the Rock, in self-abasement, genuine humility, meekness, and patience before God, the more fruit you will bring to His glory, and the more honour you will bring to His precious name.
IV. I proceed to follow out the idea just thrown out from my friend yonder in the country, by dwelling a little upon their tendency upward, as well as their fruitfulness. I cannot get away from the thought which cheered my heart when it was mentioned to me in figure, though my friend had most likely no idea of what I was thinking till I told him. The believer in Jesus has a life which is always tending upwards. I know very well that he has a life which is bound down to earth, but he has another life which is always aspiring. Just as one of our poets exclaims
Something of this aspiring the Psalmist seemed to understand when he cried out, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before Him?" (Ps. 42:2) I want to get near His throne, I shall wake up by-and-bye in His likeness, I aspire so high as that, I shall get above this dirty, marshy, muddy wilderness, and enter the pure air of heaven, enjoy God and walk with God while upon earth, and ultimately walk with Him in white. Oh! The vast importance of spiritual attainment! I would that my hearers set a higher value upon it, not meritoriously, but manifestly, and for present enjoyment. I want no merit but what I have in Christ, I will not accept of any other; but I want that attainment in personal experience that shall bring me into actual communion with the Persons of Deity habitually. I want that attainment that shall reach "the full assurance of faith," the full assurance of understanding, the full assurance of hope, which are all scriptural expressions. I want that attainment which shall lay hold on eternal life as my own, that shall carry me out of sight of the world, that shall teach me to tread upon the high places of the earth as beneath my feet, that shall enable me to say with the old patriarch (I love patriarchal religion), "O, my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." (Judges 5:21) I want that attainment that shall enable me, through my God, to run through a troop, whether it be a troop of corruptions, a troop of temptations, a troop of persecutions, a troop of troubles, to run right through them, not stay contentedly with them, and to leap over a wall, whether it be a wall of separation, a wall of difficulty, or a wall of carnality, to leap right over it! Oh! The blessedness of going on persevering in the things of God. Experimental attainment in the things of God is, in my opinion, very rare. I can find many that are very ambitious about attainment in the world, name, and fame, and filthy lucre, earth's fascinating charms, and to grasp as much as they can; but, alas! Alas! How few do I find panting after spiritual attainment.
If earth content you, beloved, your religion is not worth a straw; if the things of time are your portion, you are welcome to them, I do not want them; mine lies within the veil. I hope your portion is there. I thank God that my heart is often there, and I would it were always there, waiting for the salvation that shall be revealed, and consummated in eternal glory.
Most anxiously do I desire to see the plants of righteousness, which the Lord Himself hath planted in His garden, the Church, bringing forth at least as much fruit to His glory as the briers and crabs of the wilderness bring forth to gratify the flesh, and serve the prince of darkness. But alas! I am constrained to weep in secret over the barrenness of many who I cannot but believe are God's living plants. Where is their zeal for glorifying God, and promoting the cause of Christ upon earth? Where is their fruitfulness in the living Church of God? Do we see it in their constancy in their places in His house of prayer? Do we see it in their eagerness to bear one another's burdens, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ? Oh, that the gracious Husbandman would do by them as He said, (John 15:2) "Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit." If He takes His pruning-knife, and cuts off a large portion of their love of the world, their carnal gratifications, and their vanity in earthly pursuits, we may then hope to see them bringing forth much fruit; then the Father of mercies might be glorified, and full evidence given that they are Christ's disciples. (John 15:8) And what a lovely spot would the Church of Christ upon earth be, if every member were emulous to bring forth an increase of fruit, so as to vie with each other in the thirty-fold, the sixty-fold, and in the hundred-fold. (Mark 4:8)
A word more. The fruits which this tribe bear upwards you will perceive are diverse and profuse. "The fruits of the Spirit," are said to be "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, gentleness, faith; against such there is no law." (Gal. 5:22,23) They are outlaws, there is no law for them. "The fruits of righteousness are by Jesus Christ." Mark their upward tendency "to the praise and glory of God." Now I very much fear that their is a large portion of what is called fruit in religion in our day that is bearing fruit towards the creature, not upwards. I want your fruits and mine, beloved, to be such as God commands, such as shall glorify His name, such as shall exalt Christ, such as shall constrain you to say with the apostle, "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." (Phil. 1:20) I want your fruits and mine to be such as are designated in Scripture "the fruits of the Spirit," and you will mark how strikingly and solemnly they are contrasted with the fruits of the flesh. Oh! For more fruitfulness in the things of God! Until the clusters shall all be ripe, until the heavy crop of corn shall wave before the heavenly breeze, and the glorious Husbandman say to His angel, as recorded in the Apocalypse, "Thrust in thy sickle, for the fruits of the earth are ripe." Oh! Bear with me while I remind you, that there are fruits of the earth which are ripening to destruction, to be despised by and expelled from the presence of God, and there are fruits which are ripening for the heavenly garner, for the glorious winepress, as the Husbandman's own, the produce of His own grace, and tending to His own glory. See to it that your fruits do not merely get above the creature, see to it that they are borne upwards and calculated to glorify His name, and then shall angels, and saints, and demons, and worldlings all know you by your fruits. "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt. 7:20)
May the eternal Spirit put life and power into these few remarks, and cause your souls to take root downwards, and bring forth fruit upwards, to prove that you belong to the tribe of Judah, distinguished of God, and His name shall have all the glory for ever.