"I am the vine, ye are the branches." John xv. 5. - "I am the life." - John xi.. 25.
If you take a knife and cut off part of a vine branch, you will find it as full of sap as ever it can hold; so, "He that liveth in Christ shall never die. Believest thou this?" said the blessed Immanuel unto Martha, sister of Lazarus, toward whom the Lord, who spake these words, displayed his "power," as "the resurrection and the life." You will find most of all, comparatively, who make mention of Jesus, to be dead branches; no sap in them. Quantities of members of experimental churches are sapless, lifeless, withered, dry, barren branches. No green leaves of life; no bloom of living verdure; no soft, pliant, and moist life; no spiritually gay dress of the eternal spring and summer of the Last-Adam land of regeneration and renewings, under the power of the Holy Ghost, in their souls, at all enrich, adorn, beautify, or grace vast and huge quantities of professedly experimental branches on the tree of life, - the Lord Jesus Christ!
My brethren, it is not the name of a branch that makes a Christian. It is not the assenting and consenting to experimental, doctrinal, and practical Christianity that makes a Christian; it is not prating, singing, reading, nor hearing of the new birth, nor contending for it as a truth that makes a Christian; it is not even assenting and consenting that there must be felt the sap of life in every branch of Christ that shall grow in paradise beyond the grave, that makes a Christian. No!
But, to have the sensible sap, freshness, flowing feelings, and moisture, and penetrating heavenliness of repentance and faith; to have the very sap from the trunk of the tree of life, moving in one as a branch; this, it must be confessed, beggars description. A godly man says, "Give me the sap, and let others talk of it." To have the thing itself must be something remarkable. Ali! what avails such a noise about Christ if the sap is not in us? " He is cast forth and is withered;" that is the character of each one of the sapless branches. .
But, after all, this is a mystery which none of the non-elect are ever to fathom. (Dan. xii. 10.) It is a sea which they have no line to sound. I am confident of it. (Prov. xvi. 23.) It is a heavenly atmosphere they never could breathe in yet. No! Did they ever breathe there, it would choke their letter capacity of swallowing down the written word without the incarnate word, and calling it religion. It would choke them from falsifying God's word any longer, which says, that the kingdom of God is not in the word written merely, but in power. Let our letter Calvinists be touched by the sap of life, and their caterpillar-like, crawling, letter religion would be transformed into something new, that it had never been changed into before. There must be a change. You may teach any natural man or woman; you may teach a Pharisee, nay, 'the chief priests" of all denominations of Christians, the scribes, the church clergy, to know the
letter of Scripture. And what of that? They are 'as sapless as the driest piece of wood in England. The bones of the elect are spiritually to "flourish like a herb." Their leaf is to be green. (Jer. xvii. 8.) Nay, so abundant is the glory of the life of Christ, in elect trees, in the elect garden or field of the last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ our God, that it is said of those trees, "and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." (Isa. lv. 12.) The branches of Christ swell with the heavenly moisture of life imparted to them. "I am like a green olive tree in the house of God." Fullness, satiation, and crowning goodness, more or less, adorn, enrich, and bless them. " I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness." " I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul." " The trees of the Lord are full of sap." O beauteous buds, which creep forth from the satiated bark of such trees, "planted by the rivers of waters." "Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit."
The poor, low, and stunted growth of letter-Christians is thus seen, felt, and known, under the spreading, enriching, and striking growth of supernatural Christianity, in the elect and anointed soul. Says such a soul, "I can see their leanness!" "The transgression of the wicked, as letter-Christians are, saith within my heart that there is no fear of God before their eyes." " For," says a godly man, "I have often to weep for my want of the enriching and freshening influences of the waters of life." The dry trees, as letter-knowledge Christians are, have the impudence to think themselves fit for any thing. As it is written, " Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou and reign over us. And the bramble said," (brambles can talk, yea, too well,) "unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow." (Judges ix. 12, &c.) The bramble calls his kingship a shadow! So that, by his own confession, emptiness is his name and rule; and, by saying "my" shadow, the impudence of a letter-preacher is also set forth. The vine will not rule over the trees. No; that it will not. Therefore recourse must be had to the bramble; so that, where the thorn of universal redemption will not do, the bramble of letter-Calvinism must needs sway the sceptre. "Anointed brambles," to use Huntington's expression, "rule bravely." The non-elect think the bramble a topping king. "Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou and reign over us." No sooner said than accepted; therefore the brambled shadow is the notable screen that the letter-Christians, and their parson, the bramble, are entertaining themselves- with Sunday after Sunday. "Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou and reign over us."
Letter-preachers, Satanically transformed pastors, (2 Cor. xi. 14,) "blind watchmen, shepherds that cannot understand, greedy dogs, and ravening wolves in sheep's clothing," are the honourable appellations these fillers of *pulpits, these sour, raw, and wild fruit bearers, these branches never engrafted into Christ, the head-Calvinist preachers, are branded by, among the royal family of God's elect.
Aaron's rod budded! That showed God had transfused life into it. As for the fruit of Christ's branches, living and full of sap, the squeezing hand of afflictions, as in wine fat, presses out the juice thereof; "The scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon." (Hosea xiv. 7.)
I say, once for all, that the grand designation under which all non-elect letter-Calvinists come, is, that there is no sap in them from the Vine, - Christ.
Look at Aaron's rod! "And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron, for the house of Levi, was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." (Num. xvii. 8.) The almond tree, as one said, is the emblem of destruction. (Jer. 1.; Eccles. xii. 5.) Aaron's rod that budded was, in future times, kept beyond "the second veil," in "the tabernacle which is called the holiest of all." (Heb. ix. 3, 4.) Every rod that buds, every branch that is eternally grafted on that fair tree, the Lord Jesus Christ, " fairer than the sons of men," has been first made to bud with almonds, under the destruction from "the schoolmaster, the law," who first whips every one all to pieces, who is afterwards bound up again by the good Samaritan, the Lord Jesus. That is the secret whereby first the branches of Christ afterwards become, through grace, what they do. For first having become "lost," they are actually afterwards "found." Not found or lost either as the evangelical clergy of the church of England are, by letter-knowledge, or by that letter mass of ice, "Scott's Bible," or such like; for, as one said, "A natural man might have written all Scott's Bible." But the elect branches having been supernaturally lost, are supernaturally found. Not like the dissenting ministers, who go tick-tick about these things, like a clock, having been wound up to do so by the corruptible band of the dead, and blind, and letter-academy tutors, or of their own brains. No; the branches of Christ have been killed, and lost, and found, and made alive again by the power of God alone; not by God and Co.; not God and a Sunday school, where nearly always false doctrine, or, at least, educational (!) Christianity is abominably taught. "Fear toward God is taught by the precept of men." (Isa. xxix. 13.) O horrible times!
Every rod that buds almonds is to be laid up in "the holiest of all," and in "the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold." Its neighbour in the holiest tabernacle is "the golden censer," from whence alone the living and spiritual incense is offered. The companions of the budded rod in the gold-encircled and covenanted ark, are "the golden pot that had manna," &c. (See Heb. ix. 3, 4, 4ttc.) Truly "the cherubims of glory shadow over" where such divine realities are laid up. (Heb. ix. 5.)
Thus, the budding and almond-yielding rods of life, the type, perhaps, as I have said, of having died spiritually under the law, are infallibly brought to and infallibly received by Christ. After having been received by Christ from the hands of his Father's law, the branches of Christ are, by him, sooner or later, drenched with life As I said at the commencement, if you take a knife and slip off part of any vine branch in this natural world, you may see the shoot teems with sap. And again, once for all, I declare, in my poor opinion, that the radical fault of all non-elect head-Calvinists and letter-Christians is that there is no sap in them. Such branches are gathered and taken away. As Huntington quotes and says of each such a one, "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away," &c. Such sapless branches are gathered by letter-preachers, and by letter-churches, and are by them called Christians! Well, well, it is to be so.
Even many of the elect think much more highly of themselves than they ought to think. As it is written, "Because thou sayest I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." O no; need of nothing! What wonderful Christians they were in their own eyes! Well, well; where could have been their like? Like! Why there is plenty of such now, and they seem vastly on the increase too. May God thin their numbers, as he will do; (1 Cor. iii. 13;) "and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." (Rev. ill. 17.) God, seemingly, thus thinks differently of some of the manifested elect to what they think of themselves. An elect man is to examine himself! There is a needs-be for it, I think.
Speaking of this sap, or life, which almond-yielding rods receive in the holiest of all in the ark, reminds me that I shall tell an anecdote.
Some years ago, about July, the ground having been previously chapt by thought, and then nobly drenched by plenteous falls of rain, I saw a gardener digging. The afternoon being warm, I leaned over the rails, and said, "Every thing looks nice now, and the ground is pleasantly soft." "Yes," said he, "the ground is full of life." He soon after, thrust his spade in, and turned up the mould, soft and genial with the warmth and rains.
Every blade of grass, every leaf on the trees does, generally speaking, on an afternoon or day of that kind, seem to rejoice and sing. The showers, sunshine, promising produce, and ripening growth seem, as it were, on a day of that kind, to sing a silent hymn of grateful acknowledgment, amid teeming satisfaction to the bounteous giver, naturally.
So, eternally and spiritually glowing with a nobler life, shall the mystic vine branches of Christ swell with a more triumphant and exalted replenishment! So shall the budding beauties spiritually teem amid the immortal foliage from out of the immortal bark. Our first Adam life is astonishing and mysterious, naturally. But the last Adam life, received in *generation, is transcendently mysterious; and which all but the elect, I believe, are to be for ever ignorant of. But, as I am going to print, the Lord willing, a book entitled, "Thoughts on Eternal Election, Reprobation, and Predestination," &c., I need not say here anything on election, except that as regards the sap of the new life the elect have from the time of eternal life, predestination is the deepest root, after fore-knowledge conveying and administering the same. "Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate." "I am the vine, ye are the branches," says the God-Man to the limbs in him, the eternal tree of grace, love, and salvation. And, I believe, no letter-Christian knows any more concerning "the life" thereof, without which all else is rubbish, than a Hottentot does.
Gospel Standard -1839 p55