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§ 276. Similitude of the Vine and Branches.—The Law of Love. (John, xv.)

THERE were many thoughts which his mind and heart yet laboured to pour forth. After leaving the table he began to discourse anew, and called their attention specially to two thoughts: (1.) That the relation which had subsisted between them was to remain, with this difference only, that, instead of external dependence and connexion, they would be internally allied to and dependent on him; (2.) That they must now become self-active agents for the spread of the kingdom of God, but that they could only become such by continued communion and fellowship with him.

To illustrate these points, he made use of the similitude of a Vine: God, the vine-dresser; Christ, the vine; his followers, the branches. The fructifying sap flows from the vine-stock through all the branches, and without it they can produce no fruit; so the followers of Christ can only obtain, by inward and inseparable communion with him, the Divine life which can fit them to be productive labourers in the kingdom of God. The branches wither when torn from the vine, and deprived of its vital sap; so, also, the disciples of Christ live and prosper only in continuous communion with him. But as the branches show, by bearing fruit, that they have shared in the fructifying power from the vine-stock; so the disciples of Christ must show their participation in the Divine life through communion with Him, by abundant and fruitful 400labours in the kingdom of God. The vine-dresser cuts off all useless branches, which, like mere excrescences, consume the vital power of the vine without bearing fruit; so will all those who do not manifest the Divine life in fruitful works, proving, by this deficiency, that their communion with Christ is not real, but apparent, be cut off from the kingdom of God.738738   The same thought as “He who hath, to him shall be given,” &c., p. 105, 189. But even the productive branches stand in constant need of the vine-dresser’s care; all exuberant growth must be trimmed; all excrescences hindering the course of the vital sap must be pared away; so, also, the disciples, even those who enjoy the Divine life in communion with Christ, must be purified constantly from foreign elements, that there may be no obstacles to the developement of the Divine life within them, or of the outward activity corresponding to it.

It was only by this activity in communion with him that they could prove themselves to be his genuine disciples (v. 8);739739   Mark the inner connexion between these discourses and those recorded in the first three Gospels. The same demand is implied in the parables of the talents and the pound (p. 347, 348) as in this similitude of the vine. by activity in observing all his commandments;740740   Hence “the commandments” are not “the letter of the law;” where there is life, rooted in communion with Christ, it cannot, according to its very essence, manifest itself otherwise except in works corresponding to the law. and again he condenses all “the commandments” into love (v. 9-14). Such love, they were to show to each other as he, laying down his life, had shown to them. In thus communicating to the disciples the whole counsel of the Father in regard to the plan of salvation through their agency, and in calling upon them to devote themselves to this service as organs of the Divine kingdom, with clear consciousness and free self-determination, he removes them from the stand-point of “servants” and takes them up to that of “friends” (v. 15).741741   Cf. p. 120.

United to each other in love, they must also be hated in common by the world; the world must feel to them as to their Master. He predicts the persecutions that await them. He sees before him the conflict of Christianity with all existing institutions (v. 18-23).742742   Not “peace,” but a “sword,” as in the synoptical Gospels; cf. p. 315.

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