The Review and Herald

233/1902

September 11, 1883

The Living Vine

EGW

During our first visit to California, in early spring, we noticed the husbandmen on every hillside busily engaged about some important plant. Going nearer to see the object of their care, we found it merely a small stub, unsightly, and apparently lifeless. With surprise we learned that the field before us was a vineyard, and that these insignificant plants were the grape-vines. One can hardly conceive a more unpromising appearance than was there presented. RH September 11, 1883, par. 1

In September we again visited a vineyard; and what a change! The wintry stub had shot forth branches, beautiful in their fresh verdure, and laden with rich clusters of purple fruit. As we compared the former barren and lifeless appearance with the verdure and fruitfulness before us, we could but think of those words of the prophet concerning Christ: “He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him. He was despised, and we esteemed him not.” It was thus that the Jewish nation looked upon Jesus. RH September 11, 1883, par. 2

The Divine Husbandman planted a goodly vine upon the hills of Palestine. But the men of Israel despised this root of heavenly origin. In a rage they cast it over their vineyard wall; they bruised it, and trampled it under their indignant feet, and hoped that they had destroyed it forever. The Husbandman removed the broken vine, and concealed it from their sight. Again he planted it, but in such a manner that the stock was no longer visible. The branches hung over the wall, and grafts might be joined to it, but the stem itself was placed beyond the power of men to reach or harm. RH September 11, 1883, par. 3

To this world, dark with the shadows of sin, sorrow, and death, came the Son of God with the light of pardon, peace, and immortal life. “As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” But the world hated Christ because his perfect purity was in such contrast to their own vileness. They rejected and crucified the Lord of life. God raised him from the dead, and hid him from mortal view; but he is still the Saviour of mankind. He is still the vine-stock, the source and sustainer of spiritual life. Still may grace, strength, and salvation be derived from his fullness. Though the Vine itself is unseen, its branches are visible. While Christ is removed from human sight, his life and power are manifested in his followers. RH September 11, 1883, par. 4

Grafts may still be united with the Vine. As the severed branch, leafless, and apparently lifeless, is ingrafted into the living stock, and, fiber by fiber, and vein by vein, drinks in the life and strength of the vine until it buds and blossoms and bears fruit, even so may the sinner, by repentance and faith, connect himself with Christ, become a partaker of the divine nature, and bring forth in words and deeds the fruit of a holy life. RH September 11, 1883, par. 5

Jesus “has life in himself,” and this life he offers to impart freely to souls that are dead in trespasses and sins. Yea, he shares with them his purity, his honor, and exaltation. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” The sapless branch, ingrafted into the living vine, becomes a part of the vine. It lives while united to the vine. So the Christian lives by virtue of his union with Christ. The sinful and human is linked to the holy and divine. RH September 11, 1883, par. 6

The believing soul abides in Christ, and becomes one with him. When persons are closely united in the relations of this life, their tastes become similar, they come to love the same things. So those who abide in Christ will love the things which he loves. They will sacredly cherish and obey his commandments for he himself has made this a condition of sharing his love: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.” RH September 11, 1883, par. 7

The union of the soul with Christ is a relation of dependence. The inferior relies upon the wisdom and strength of the superior. “Without me,” says Jesus, “ye can do nothing.” Christ is our wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification. “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye except ye abide in me.” RH September 11, 1883, par. 8

“He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” The vine-branch, nourished from the parent stock, becomes flourishing and fruitful. Its rich and fragrant clusters attest its union with the living vine. So the Christian, abiding in Jesus, will bring forth fruit. In character and life will be manifested, like the teeming cluster of the vine, the precious graces of the Spirit,—love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Not one of these fruits will be missing in the life of one in whose soul the Spirit of Christ abides. RH September 11, 1883, par. 9

Wherever there is union with Christ, there is love. Whatever other fruits we may bear, if love be missing, they profit nothing. Love to God and our neighbor is the very essence of religion. No one can love Christ and not love his children. When we are united to Christ, his mind is transferred to us. Purity and love shine forth in the character; meekness and truth control the life. The very expression of the countenance is changed. Christ abiding in the soul exerts a transforming power, and the outward aspect bears witness to the peace and joy that reign within. RH September 11, 1883, par. 10

Every fruitful branch is pruned. “Every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” There is a constant tendency to be more profuse in foliage than in fruit. The strength and nourishment which goes to support the excessive foliage, is taken from the grapes. Therefore the husbandman prunes away the useless growth, that the fruit may be richer and more abundant. Thus it is that the Heavenly Husbandman deals with his vineyard. In prosperity the followers of Jesus often turn their thoughts and energies to gratifying themselves, to securing earthly treasure, to enjoying the ease and pleasure and luxury of the world, while they bring forth little fruit to the glory of God. Then the Husbandman, to promote the fruitfulness of the branches, comes with the pruning-knife of disappointment, loss, or bereavement, and cuts away the hindering growth. RH September 11, 1883, par. 11

A gentleman who was much depressed in spirits by some afflictive providence, was one evening walking in a garden, when he observed a pomegranate tree nearly cut through the stem. Greatly wondering, he asked the gardener the reason, and received an answer that explained to his satisfaction the wounds of his own bleeding heart,—“Sir, this tree used to shoot so strong that it bore nothing but leaves. I was therefore obliged to cut it in this manner, and when it was almost cut through, then it began to bear plenty of fruit.” RH September 11, 1883, par. 12

Our sorrows do not spring out of the ground. In every affliction, God has a purpose for our good. Every blow that destroys an idol, every providence that weakens our hold upon the things of earth, and fixes our affections more firmly upon God, is a blessing. The pruning may be painful for a time, but afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness. We should receive with gratitude whatever will quicken the conscience, elevate the thoughts, and ennoble the life. There are branches that are cut off for the fire; let us thank God if we may, through painful pruning, retain a connection with the living Vine; for if we suffer with Christ, we shall also reign with him. RH September 11, 1883, par. 13

Precious are the privileges accorded him who abides in Christ. Said our Saviour, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” The mind of Christ dwells in his faithful followers; their desires are in accordance with his will; their petitions are indited by his Spirit. They obtain answers to their prayers; for they ask for such blessings as he delights to bestow. RH September 11, 1883, par. 14

But there are thousands of prayers daily offered that God does not answer. There are faithless prayers. “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” There are selfish prayers, proceeding from a heart that is cherishing idols. “If any man regard iniquity in his heart, the Lord will not hear him.” There are petulant, fretful prayers, murmuring because of the burdens and cares of life, instead of humbly seeking grace to lighten them. Those who offer such petitions are not abiding in Christ. They have not submitted their will to the will of God. They do not comply with the condition of the promise, and it is not fulfilled to them. RH September 11, 1883, par. 15

They that are abiding in Jesus have the assurance that God will hear them, because they love to do his will. They offer no formal, wordy prayer, but come to God in earnest, humble confidence, as a child to a tender father, and pour out the story of their grief and fears and sins, and in the name of Jesus present their wants; they depart from his presence rejoicing in the assurance of pardoning love and sustaining grace. RH September 11, 1883, par. 16

The graft that unites with the vine-stock and partakes of its life, becomes flourishing and fruitful; but what if it forms no such union? It is a withered branch; though outwardly joined to the vine, it does not share its life; it cannot bring forth fruit. That lifeless scion is all too true a figure of a large class of professed Christians. Though outwardly joined to Christ, they have no vital connection with him; they do not share his life or bring forth fruit to his glory. They are withered branches, tenderly nurtured for a time, but, remaining unchanged, they will be taken away at last. RH September 11, 1883, par. 17

My brethren and sisters, I entreat you to heed the solemn lesson of the vine and its branches. Resolve that you will be fruit-bearing members of the living Vine. The scion can flourish only as it receives life and strength from the parent stock. Improve, then, every opportunity to connect yourselves more closely with Christ. It is by believing him, loving him, copying him, and depending wholly upon him, that you are to become one with him; and through you his life and character will be revealed to the world. RH September 11, 1883, par. 18

It is by opening your heart to the words of Christ that you are to become a partaker of the divine nature. When you cast your helpless soul upon him, believing his word, “Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out”, then the union is begun. Your faith may be feeble, but cling to the Saviour's promise. In him is light and hope and life. His words, received into the soul, will give vital power to work the works of Christ; and every effort put forth in love will bind you more firmly to your source of strength. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” RH September 11, 1883, par. 19

Let the words of Christ abide in you, and you will at last be able to say, with him who declared himself the chief of sinners. “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” RH September 11, 1883, par. 20