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HOW FRUITS GROW
WERE Rest my subject, there are other things I should wish to say about it, and other kinds of Rest of which I should like to speak. But that is not my subject. My theme is that the Christian experiences are not the work of magic, but come under the law of Cause and Effect. And I have chosen Rest only as a single illustration of the working of that principle. If there were time I might next run over all the Christian experiences in turn, and show how the same wide law applies to each. But I think it may serve the better purpose if I leave this further exercise to yourselves. I know no Bible study that you will find more full of fruit, or which will take you nearer to the ways of God, or make the Christian life itself more solid or more sure. I shall add only a single other illustration of what I mean, before I close
Where does Joy come from? I knew a Sunday scholar whose conception of Joy was that it was a thing made in lumps and kept somewhere in Heaven, and that when people prayed for it, pieces were somehow let down and fitted into their souls. I am not sure that views as gross and material are not often held by people who ought to be wiser. In reality, Joy is as much a matter of Cause and Effect as pain. No one can get Joy by merely asking for it. It is one of the ripest fruits of the Christian life, and, like all fruits, must be grown. There is a very clever trick in India called the mango-trick. A seed is put in the ground and covered up, and after divers incantations a full-blown mango-bush appears within five minutes. I never met any one who knew how the thing was done, but I never met any one who believed it to be anything else than a conjuring-trick. The world is pretty unanimous now in its belief in the orderliness of Nature. Men may not know how fruits grow, but they do know that they cannot grow in five minutes. Some lives have not even a stalk on which fruits could hang, even if they did grow in five minutes. Some have never planted one sound seed of Joy in all their lives; and others who may have planted a germ or two have lived so little in sunshine that they never could come to maturity.
Whence, then, is Joy? Christ put His teaching upon this subject into one of the most exquisite of His parables. I should in any instance have appealed to His teaching here, as in the case of Rest, for I do not wish you to think I am speaking words of my own. But it so happens that He has dealt with it in a passage of unusual fulness.
I need not recall the whole illustration. It is the parable of the Vine. Did you ever think why Christ spoke that parable? He did not merely throw it into space as a fine illustration of general truths. It was not simply a statement of the mystical union, and the doctrine of an indwelling Christ. It was that; but it was more. After He had said it, He did what was not an unusual thing when He was teaching His greatest lessons. He turned to the disciples and said He would tell them why he had spoken it. It was to tell them how to get Joy. “These things have I spoken unto you,” He said, “that My Joy might remain in you and that your Joy might be full.” It was a purposed and deliberate communication of His secret of Happiness.
Go back over these verses, then, and you will find the Causes of this Effect, the spring, and the only spring, out of which true Happiness comes. I am not going to analyse them in detail. I ask you to enter into the words for yourselves. Remember, In the first place, that the Vine was the Eastern symbol of Joy. It was its fruit that made glad the heart of man. Yet, however innocent that gladness—for the expressed juice of the grape was the common drink at every peasant’s board—the gladness was only a gross and passing thing. This was not true happiness, and the vine of the Palestine vineyards was not the true vine. Christ was “the true Vine.” Here, then, is the ultimate source of Joy. Through whatever media it reaches us, all true Joyand Gladness find their source in Christ. By this, of course, is not meant that the actual Joyexperienced is transferred from Christ’s nature, or is something passed on from Him to us. What is passed on is His method of getting it. There is, indeed, a sense in which we can share another’s joy or another’s sorrow. But that is another matter.Christ is the source of Joyto men in the sense in which He is the source of rest. His people share His life, and therefore share its consequences, and one of these is Joy. His method of living is one that in the nature of things produces Joy. When He spoke of His Joy remaining with us He meant in part that the causes which produced it should continue to act. His followers, that is to say, by repeating His life would experience its accompaniments. His Joy, His kind of Joy, would remain with them.
The medium through which this Joy comes is next explained: “He that abideth in Me the same bringeth forth much fruit.” Fruit first, Joy next; the one the cause or medium of the other. Fruit-bearing is the necessary antecedent; Joy both the necessary consequent and the necessary accompaniment. It lies partly in the bearing fruit, partly in the fellowship which makes that possible. Partly that is to say, Joy lies in mere constant living in Christ’s presence, with all that that implies of peace, of shelter, and of love; partly in the influence of that Life upon mind and character and will; and partly in the inspiration to live and work for others, with all that that brings of self-riddance and Joy in other’s gain. All these, in different ways and at different times, are sources of pure Happiness. Even the simplest of them —to do good to other people—is an instant and infallible specific. There is no mystery about Happiness whatever. Put in the right ingredients and it must come out. He that abideth in Him will bring forth much fruit; and bringing forth much fruit is Happiness. The infallible receipt for Happiness, then, is to do good; and the infallible receipt for doing good is to abide in Christ. The surest proof that all this is a plain matter of Cause and Effect is that men may try every other conceivable way of finding Happiness, and they will fail. Only the right cause in each case can produce the right effect.
Then the Christian experiences are our own making? In the same sense in which grapes are our own making, and no more. All fruits grow—whether they grow in the soil or in the soul; whether they are the fruits of the wild grape or of the True Vine. No man can make things grow. He can get them to grow by arranging all the circumstances and fulfilling all the conditions. But the growing is done by God. Causes and effects are eternal arrangements, set in the constitution of the world; fixed beyond man’s ordering. What man can do is to place himself in the midst of a chain of sequences. Thus he can get things to grow: thus he himself can grow. But the grower is the Spirit of God.
What more need I add but this—test the method by experiment. Do not imagine that you have got these things because you know how to get them. As well try to feed upon a cookery book. But I think I can promise that if you try in this simple and natural way, you will not fail. Spend the time you have spent in sighing for fruits in fulfilling the conditions of their growth. The fruits will come, must come. We have hitherto paid immense attention toeffects, to the mere experiences themselves; we have described them, extolled them, advised them, prayed for them — done everything but find out what caused them. Henceforth let us deal with causes. “To be,” says Lotze, “is to be in relations.” About every other method of living the Christian life there is an uncertainty. About every other method of acquiring the Christian experiences there is a “perhaps.” But in so far as this method is the way of nature, it cannot fail. Its guarantee is the laws of the universe, and these are “the Hands of the Living God.”
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY ROBERT MACINTOSH AND CO. LTD.
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS, GLASGOW.
LONDON: HODDER & STOUGHTON
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