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BRINGING FORTH FRUIT TO OURSELVES
Hosea 10:1. Israelis an empty vine; he bringeth forth fruit unto himself.
IN order to judge aright of our actions, we must examine the principles from whence they proceed. Ignorant as we are of men’s real motives, we invariably endeavour to discover them even in courts of judicature; and pass sentence, not so much upon their actions, as on their intentions. Nor does any one disapprove of this method of estimating men’s conduct, provided only there be sufficient ground for discovering the real sentiments and wishes of their hearts. Now, if this be a proper mode of judging with respect to each other, we should certainly try our own actions by the same rule; since they will most assuredly be estimated according to this rule in the day when we shall stand before the tribunal of God.
In the words before us, God passes sentence, as it were, on the Israelites, not so much for the form and matter of their services, as for the dispositions they exercised in the performance of them. And, as he does the same with respect to us, it is of importance to ascertain,
When we may be said to bring forth fruit to ourselves—
By the law of our creation we should regard nothing but the glory and authority of God. But, through the corruption of our nature, we have cast off God, and exalted self into his throne. We manifest that we do this,
When self is the principle of our actions—
[It is but too evident that unregenerate men act in an entire conformity to their own will, without ever considering the will of God. If in any thing they seem to oppose their own will, they do so, not from a regard to his authority, but from some selfish principle of carnal hope or fear. If we would persuade them to any course of conduct, we find that the simple declaration of God’s mind and will has no effect on them whatever; and that we must have recourse to carnal and temporal considerations, if we would succeed with them. Moreover they wish that others also should consult their will, rather than the will of God: and thus they shew not only that they are a god unto themselves, but that they would gladly be a god also to their fellow-creatures; and have their will more respected than the will of God. What can be a proof of bringing forth fruit to themselves, if this be not [Note: Colossians 2:23.]?]
When self is the measure our actions—
[Many are willing to be almost Christians; but few wish to be altogether so. Herod would part with many things; but not with his Herodias. The Young Man would follow Christ at all events. as he thought; but could not be prevailed upon to sell his estate, and give it to the poor [Note: Matthew 19:21-22.]. Thus, if the attending at the house and table of the Lord, if the abstaining from gross sins, and the exercising of benevolence to the poor will suffice, many will be content to pay the price: but, the renouncing of all sin, and the walking in the narrow path of holiness and self-denial, are too irksome a task: and if they cannot maintain an interest in Christ on lower terms, they determine to part with him. Now what is this, but to make their own ease the measure of their obedience, when they ought to have no other measure than the word of God? whereas the true Christian wishes to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.”]
When self is the end of our actions—
[God’s command is, that “whatever we do, we should do all to the glory of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.].” But what if we be studying how to advance our own reputation or interest in the world? What if, like Jehu, we be actuated by pride, when we profess to be doing the Lord’s work [Note: Compare 2Ki 10:30 with Hosea 1:4.]? What if, even in religious duties also, we be seeking to establish our own righteousness, or to gratify only some selfish principle [Note: Zechariah 7:5-6.]? In all these cases we are justly involved in that censure, “All men seek their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ’s [Note: Philippians 2:21.].”]
To shew the evil of such conduct we shall proceed to point out,
In what respects, they who do so resemble an empty vine—
The similes of Scripture, if strained and perverted, are made disgusting; but, if soberly and judiciously illustrated, they are replete with useful instruction. Now, without fear of straining this simile, we may observe, that they, who bring forth fruit to themselves, resemble an empty vine,
In its nature—
[ A vine is a proper emblem of fruitfulness; but an empty vine, in a country so famous for its vineyards as Palestine, gives one a very strong idea of barrenness. Hence, when God was complaining of his people’s unfruitfulness, he compared them to a vineyard, which, alter the greatest pains and cost bestowed on its culture, brought forth nothing but wild grapes [Note: Isaiah 5:4.]. In this view, an empty vine marks the depraved nature of those, who, notwithstanding all the labour with which they have been cultivated, remain “barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of the Lord:” who, instead of being “filled with the fruits of righteousness to God’s praise and glory,” can rise no higher than self, nor do one single act that is pleasing and acceptable to God.]
In its use—
[A barren vine is the most worthless of all things: other trees may be made useful in some way; but neither root nor branch, nor even the trunk, of a barren vine is good for any thing [Note: Ezekiel 15:2-5.]. Such worthless creatures are they who bring forth no fruit to God. They may indeed be good members of the community; but, as to all the great ends of their creation, they are of no use whatever: they bring no glory to God; they advance not the spiritual welfare of those around them; they attain not to any measure of the Divine image. There is not any thing in the whole creation that does not answer the ends of its formation better than they. Well does our Lord compare them to “salt, which, when it has lost its savour, is unfit even for the dunghill [Note: Luke 14:35.].”]
In its end—
[Our Lord has told us what will be the end of a barren vine [Note: John 15:6.]. And shall not such also be the end of those who live to themselves rather than to God? Let our Lord determine this point also [Note: Matthew 25:30.]: and let “the unprofitable servant” not think himself secure on account of his freedom from gross sins: but remember that the best actions are to no purpose, if not wrought from a principle of love to God [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1.].]
Those who resemble an empty vine—
[The culture bestowed on you is worse than in vain, since it greatly aggravates your guilt. Guard then against self-deceit: and devote yourselves in body, soul, and spirit, unto God. Above all, seek to be united unto Christ by faith: for it is only by virtue derived from Christ, that you can ever bring forth fruit unto God [Note: Romans 7:4.John 15:4; John 15:4.].]
Those who may rather be compared to fruitful vines—
[Occasional mixtures of self are no just ground to question our state before God: for there is much remaining weakness in the best. Nevertheless you must watch and pray against that base principle, and judge of your attainments by the degree in which self is mortified, and God exalted in your hearts.]
THE DUTY OF SEEKING GOD
Hosea 10:12. Sow to yourselves in righteousness. reap in mercy: break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
THE figurative language of Scripture may in some cases obscure its import: but, when it is explained, it exhibits the plainest truths in a rich variety of forms, and tends to fix them on our minds by its attractive influence. We pray God that this observation may be verified, while we open the passage now before us, and consider,
The duty enjoined—
The three first expressions are explained by the prophet himself as collectively importing, that we should “seek the Lord:” but, separately taken, they point out the particular manner in which we should seek him:
In the performance of his will—
[Though no man ever hopes to reap wheat, where he has sowed only tares, almost all expect to obtain heaven, notwithstanding they have never made it the one object of their pursuit. But the Apostle guards us against this fatal error, and assures us, that we shall reap according to what we have sowed [Note: Galatians 6:7-8.]. Would we then have a joyful harvest in the day of judgment, let us not be provoking God by a life of sin; but turn to him in the way of righteousness; nor let us regard the duties of the first or second table only; but labour to fulfil all his will uniformly and without reserve.]
In a dependence on his mercy—
[As there are many who hope to find acceptance with God, notwithstanding they seek him not at all, so are there many, who think they make God their debtor by the works they perform; and that they can earn heaven, as it were, by their own righteousness. But, however we may “sow in righteousness,” we must “reap in mercy.” Death is the wages of sin: but life is not the wages of righteousness; all our righteousnesses are imperfect [Note: Isaiah 64:6.]: our best deeds are mixed with sin: and therefore we must be contented to accept heaven as the unmerited gift of God through Jesus Christ [Note: Romans 6:23.Philippians 3:9; Philippians 3:9.].]
In a due preparation of heart to receive his blessings—
[It would be in vain for a man to sow his seed on fallow ground. The very rains, which God might send down upon it, would be of no service, if the ground were not purged of its weeds, and the seed buried in the bosom of the earth. Thus neither can the soul make a just improvement of spiritual blessings, unless it be broken up, as it were, by the divine law. Till this be done, the true way of salvation will appear foolishness. To be diligent in working righteousness, and, after all, to depend on mere mercy, will be thought paradoxical and absurd. But, when once the law is brought home to the conscience in its spirituality and extent, the soul is made willing to submit to the righteousness of God; and yet is induced to purify itself even as God is pure. It was by this means that St. Paul was brought to a right mind [Note: Romans 7:9.]; nor is there any other way of combining diligence in exertion with an humble dependence on the Divine favour [Note: Galatians 2:19. Romans 7:4.].]
For the impressing of this duty on our minds, let us consider,
The arguments with which it is enforced—
Confining ourselves to the hints suggested in the text, we shall pass by many obvious and important arguments, and fix our attention upon,
The urgency of this duty—
[At the proper seasons the husbandman goes forth to plough or sow his ground, knowing that, if his work be neglected till the time for performing it be past, he shall have reason to repent of his neglect in the day of harvest. Let it be remembered then, that this is the “time to seek the Lord.” Are we advanced in years? Surely we have no time to lose. Are we in the early part of life? What time so fit as that of youth, before our habits be fixed, or our consciences seared, or our minds distracted by worldly cares? As for aged persons, their lives must be drawing to a speedy close: or, if protracted for a while, a want of mental energy will unfit their souls for spiritual exertions. And, with respect to those who are in the midst of youth, for aught they know, there may be “but a step between them and death.” If any feel a disposition to serve the Lord, this is in a peculiar manner the time for them to seek his face. The very desire they feel, is an evidence that God himself is working in them [Note: Philippians 2:13.], and ready to reveal himself to them: whereas, if they stifle the motions of his Spirit, they know not that the grace they so despise shall be ever offered them again [Note: Genesis 6:3.]. Let us then “redeem the time” that is so precious [Note: Ephesians 5:16.], and improve the season which God has afforded us fur this important work.]
The certainty of success in it—
[The husbandman knows, that if his seed be not watered by seasonable rains, his labour will be wholly lost: yet, notwithstanding he cannot command the showers, lie performs his labour, in hope that God will graciously send the former and the latter rain. But we have an absolute promise, that God will prosper our endeavours, and that, “to him who soweth righteousness shall be a sure Reward [Note: Proverbs 11:18.].” Do we want a righteousness to justify us before God? He will clothe us in the unspotted robe of the Redeemer’s righteousness [Note: Isaiah 61:10.]. Do we want an inward righteousness to qualify us for the enjoyment of his presence? He will work it in us by his good Spirit, and transform us into his own blessed image [Note: Ezekiel 36:26.]. Yea, he will “rain down righteousness upon us,” giving us “abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness [Note: Romans 5:17.].” Let this then encourage us; for “none ever sought his face in vain [Note: Isaiah 45:19.].”]
[Let us begin the first great work, the ploughing up of our fallow ground. We need not be told either the necessity or the reasonableness of this work in husbandry: and a very small acquaintance with the corruption and obduracy of an unrenewed heart, will supersede any attempts to evince the same in the cultivation of the soul. Only let it be remembered, that nothing but the law, opened in all its spirituality, and applied in its awful sanctions, can ever effect this work. Let us study it more and more. Let us try ourselves by it. Let us bring our actions, words, and thoughts to it as to a touchstone. Let us use it for the rooting out of all false principles, and base affections. Thus shall our seed be sown to more advantage [Note: Jeremiah 4:3.]; and a glorious harvest await us in the day of the Lord Jesus [Note: James 4:9-10.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Hosea 10". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26