Sermon 945. Ripe Fruit
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, AUGUST 14, 1870,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"My soul desired the first ripe fruit." Micah 7:1.
THE nation of Israel had fallen into so sad and backsliding a condition-it was not like a vine covered with fruit, but likea vineyard after the whole vintage has been gathered-there was not to be found a single cluster. Not one righteous man couldbe found, not one to be trusted or found faithful to God. The whole state had become like a field that has been closely reaped,in which nothing remains but the stubble-like a vineyard that has been completely stripped, in which there remains no vestigeof fruit.
The Prophet, speaking in the name of Israel, desired the first ripe fruits, but there were none to be had. The lesson of thetext, as it stands, would be that good men are the best fruit of a nation-they make it worth while that the nation shouldexist. They are the salt which preserves it, they are the fruit which adorns it and blesses it. Pray we then for our country,that God will continually raise up a righteous seed, a faithful band, who, for His name's sake, shall be a sweet savor untoGod, for whose sake He may bless the whole land.
But I mean to take our text out of its connection and use it as the heading of a discourse upon ripeness in Divine Grace.I think we can all use the words of Micah in another sense, when he said, "My soul desired the first ripe fruit." We woulddesire not to be merely the green blade, we desire to be the full corn in the ear. We would not merely show forth the blossomsof repentance and the young buds of struggling faith, but we would go on to maturity and bring forth fruit unto perfection,to the honor and praise of Jesus Christ.
This morning, then, I speak about ripeness in Grace, maturity in the Divine life, fruit ready to be gathered-and our firstpoint shall be the marks of this ripeness. The second, the causes that work together to create this ripeness. The third, thedesirability of the ripeness. The fourth, the solemnity of the whole subject.
I. First, then, let us speak upon THE MARKS OF RIPENESS IN GRACE. Let us begin with the mark of beauty. There is a great beautyin a fruit tree when it is in bloom. Perhaps there is no more lovely object in all nature than the apple blossom. But thisbeauty soon fades-one shower of rain, one descent of hail, one puff of the north wind-and very soon the blossoms fall likesnow. And if they remain their full time, speedily, indeed, in any case, they must withdraw from view.
Much loveliness adorns youthful piety. The love of his espousals, his first love, his first zeal, all make the newborn Believercomely. Can anything be more delightful than our first graces? Even God Himself delights in the beauty of the blossoming Believer."I remember you," says He, "the love of your espousals, when you went after Me in the wilderness." Autumn has a more soberaspect, but still it rivals the glory of spring. Ripe fruit has its own peculiar beauty. As the fruit ripens, the sun tintsit with surpassing loveliness and the colors deepen till the beauty of the fruit is equal to the beauty of the blossom, andin some respects is superior.
What a delicacy of bloom there is upon the grape, the peach, the plum, when they have attained perfection! Nature far excelsart, and all the attempts of the modeler in wax cannot reach the marvelous blends of color, the matchless tints of the ripefruit, worthy of Eden before the Fall. It is another sort of beauty altogether from that of the blossom, yielding to the eyeof the farmer, who has the care of the garden, a fairer sight by far. The perfumed bloom yields in value to the golden apple,even as promise is surpassed by fulfillment. The blossom is painted by the pencil of hope, but the fruit is dyed in the hueof enjoyment.
There is in ripe Christians the beauty of realized sanctification which the Word of God knows by the name of "the beauty ofholiness." This consecration to God, this setting apart for His service, this watchful avoidance of evil, this care-
ful walking in integrity, this dwelling near to God, this being made like unto Christ-in a word, this beauty of holiness isone of the surest emblems of maturity in Grace. You have no ripe fruit if you are not holy.
If your passions are still not subdued, if still you are carried about by every wind of temptation-if still, "Lo here, andlo there," will attract you to the right hand and to the left, you have not reached to anything like maturity- perhaps youare not even fruit unto God at all. But where holiness is perfected in the fear of God, and the Christian is at least strivingafter perfect holiness-and aiming to be conformed to the image of Christ-one of the marks of the ripe fruit is plainly present.
Another mark is never absent in a mature Believer-namely, the weight which is evidenced in humility. Look at the corn in thefield, it holds its head erect while it is green, but when the ear is filled and matured, it hangs its head in graceful humbleness.Look at your fruit trees, how their blossoming branches shoot up towards the sky, but when they begin to be loaded with fruit,since the riper the fruit the greater its weight, the branch begins to bow, until it needs oftentimes to be propped up andto be supported, lest it break away from the stem. Weight comes with maturity, lowliness of mind is the inevitable consequence.
Growing Christians think themselves nothing. Full-grown Christians know that they are less than nothing. The nearer we areto Heaven in point of sanctification, the more we mourn our infirmities, and the humbler is our estimate of ourselves. Lightlyladen vessels float high in the water, heavy cargo sinks the boat to the water's edge. The more Grace, the more the need ofGrace is felt. He may boast of his Grace who has none. He may talk much of his Grace who has little, but he who is rich inGrace cries out for more, and forgets that which is behind.
When a man's inward life flows like a river, he thinks only of the Source, and cries before his God, "All my fresh springsare in You." He who abounds in holiness feels more than ever that in him, that is in his flesh, there dwells no good thing.You are not ripened, my Brothers and Sisters, while you have a high esteem of yourself. He who glories in himself is but ababe in Christ, if indeed he is in Christ at all. When you shall see death written on the creature, and see all your lifein Christ. When you shall perceive even your holy things to have iniquity in them, and see all your perfectness in Him whois altogether lovely. When you shall lie prostrate at the foot of the Throne, and only rise to sit and reign in Him who isyour All, then are you ripening, but not till then.
Another mark of ripeness which everyone perceives in fruit, and by which, indeed, the maturity of many fruits is tested, istenderness. The young green fruit is hard and stone-like. But the ripe fruit is soft, yields to pressure, can almost be molded,retains the mark of the finger. So is it with the mature Christian-he is noted for tenderness of spirit. Beloved, I thinkif I must miss any good thing, I would give up many of the Graces if I might possess very much tenderness of spirit. I ampersuaded that many Christians violate the delicacy of their consciences, and there lose much of true excellence.
Do you not remember, my Brothers and Sisters, when you used to be afraid to put one foot before another for fear you shouldtread in the wrong place? I wish we always felt in that same manner. You remember when you were afraid to open your mouthlest, perhaps, you should say something that would grieve the Spirit? I would we were always so self-diffident. "Open Youmy lips"-I am afraid to open them myself. "Open You my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise."
An extreme delicacy concerning sin should be cultivated by us all. When the Believer can listen to a song with a las-civiousnesstone and does not feel himself indignant, let him be indignant with himself. When he can come across sin and feel that itdoes not shock him as once it did, let him be shocked to think that his conscience is being so seared. I would give you fora prayer-that verse from Wesley's hymn-
"Quid as the twinkle of an eye,
O God, my conscience make,
Awake my heart, when sin is near.
And keep it still awake."
The sensitive plant, as soon as it is touched, begins to fold up its leaves. Touch it again and the little branches droop,until at last it stands like the bare poles of a vessel-all its sail of leaf is furled, and it seems as if it would, if itcould- shrink into nothing to avoid your hand. So should you be, so should I be, tender to the touch of sin, so as to saywith the Psalmist, "Horror has taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake Your Law." Such tenderness is a prominentmark of ripeness, and it should be exhibited, not only in relation to sin, but in other ways.
We should manifest tenderness towards the Gospel-glad to hear it, thankful even for a little of it. Glad to eat the crumbsfrom the Master's table. Tenderness towards Christ so that the heart does leap at the sound of His name. Tenderness towardsthe motions of the Spirit so as to be guided by His eye. The Spirit often, I doubt not, comes to us and we do not perceiveHim because we are heavy of hearing, we are dull of understanding. The photographer may place his plate in the camera, andthe object to be taken may be long before it, and well focused, too-and yet no impression may be produced. But when the plateis made sensitive, thoroughly sensitive-then it receives the image at once.
that your heart and mine might be sensitive to receive the impression of the Holy Spirit so that on us there shall be printedat once the mind and will of God! Dear Friend, bear this in your memory, and forget not that it shall be a token of your ripenesswhen the hardness is departing, when the heart of stone is being supplanted by the heart of flesh, and when the soul yieldspromptly to the Presence of Christ, and the touch of His Spirit.
Another mark of ripeness is sweetness, as well as tenderness. The unripe fruit is sour, and perhaps it ought to be, or elsewe should eat all the fruits while they were yet green. If pears and apples had the same flavor when they are but small, asafterwards, I am sure where there are children, very few of them would come to their full development. It may, therefore,be in the order of Grace a fit thing that in the youthful Christian some sharpness should be found which will ultimately beremoved.
There are certain Graces which are more martial and warlike than others, and have their necessary uses-these we may expectto see more in the young men than in the fathers. And they will be toned down by experience. As we grow in Grace, we are sureto grow in charity, sympathy, and love. We shall have greater and more intense affection for the Person of "Him whom havingnot seen we love." We shall have greater delight in the precious things of His Gospel. The doctrine which perhaps we did notunderstand at first, will become marrow and fatness to us as we advance in Grace. We shall feel that there is honey droppingfrom the honeycomb in the deeper truths of our religion.
We shall, as we ripen in Grace, have greater sweetness towards our fellow Christians. Bitter-spirited Christians may knowa great deal, but they are immature. Those who are quick to censure may be very acute in judgment, but they are as yet veryimmature in heart. He who grows in Grace remembers that he is but dust, and he therefore does not expect his fellow Christiansto be anything more. He overlooks ten thousand of their faults, because he knows his God overlooks twenty thousand in hisown case. He does not expect perfection in the creature, and, therefore, he is not disappointed when he does not find it.
As he has sometimes to say of himself, "This is my infirmity," so he often says of his Brethren, "This is their infirmity."And he does not judge them as he once did. I know we who are young beginners in Grace think ourselves qualified to reformthe whole Christian Church. We drag her before us and condemn her straightway. But when our virtues become more mature, Itrust we shall not be more tolerant of evil, but we shall be more tolerant of infirmity, more hopeful for the people of God,and certainly less arrogant in our criticisms. Sweetness towards sinners is another sign of ripeness.
When the Christian loves the souls of men. When he feels that there is nothing in the world which he cares for so much asendeavoring to bring others to a knowledge of the saving Truth of God. When he can lay himself out for sinners, bear withtheir ill manners, bear with anything, so that he might but lead them to the Savior-then is the man mature in Grace. God grantthis sweetness to us all. A holy calm, cheerfulness, patience, a walk with God, fellowship with Jesus, an anointing from theHoly One-I put all these together-and I call them sweetness, heavenly lusciousness, full-flavored of Christ. May this be inyou and abound.
1 hope I shall not weary you with these marks and signs. I shall not if you can find them in yourselves. Fullness, again,is the mark of ripeness, seen when the fruit is plumped out and arrived at its fair and full proportions. The man in ChristJesus has a fullness of Grace. As he advances in the Divine life, all the Graces which were in him at his new birth are strengthenedand revealed. I suppose that in the newly formed ear of wheat all the kernels are present, but they are not yet manifested.As the ear advances to maturity these grains begin to solidify and become more full.
So with the Believer. There is repentance in him, but not such repentance as he will have as he sees more the love of Christin pardoning his sin. There is faith in him, certainly, but not such faith as he shall have when afterwards he shall boldlydeclare, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him." Thereis joy in him at the very first, but not the joy which he will possess when he will rejoice in the Lord always, and yet againrejoice. Experience deepens that which was there before.
Young Christians have the first draughts, the outline of the image of Christ, but as they grow in Grace there comes the fillingup, the coloring, the laying on of the deeper tints, the bringing out of the whole picture. This it is to grow mature whenwe know whom we have believed by acquaintance with Him, when we know sin by having struggled with it, when we know the faithfulnessof God by having proved it, when we know the preciousness of the promise by having received it, and having it fulfilled inour own souls-this it is to be a ripe Christian, to be full of Grace and Truth like our Master.
Only one other mark of ripeness, and a very sure one, is a loose hold of earth. Ripe fruit soon parts from the bough. Youshake the tree and the ripest apples fall. If you wish to eat fresh fruit you put out your hand to pluck it, and if it comesoff with great difficulty you feel you had better leave it alone a little longer. But when it drops into your hand, quiteready to be withdrawn from the branch, you know it to be in good condition.
When, like Paul, we can say, "I am ready to depart," when we set loose all earthly things, oh, then it is that we are ripefor Heaven! You should measure your state of heart by your adhesiveness, or your resignation in reference to the things ofthis world. You have some comforts here, some of you have money, and you look upon it, and you feel, "it were hard to partwith this"-this is green fruit. When your Grace is mature, you will feel that though God should give you even greater abundanceof this world, you are still an exile longing for the better land.
"Whom have I in Heaven but You? There is none upon earth that I desire beside You." This is the mature Believer's question.His song often is -
"My heart is with Him on His Throne,
And ill can brook delay;
Each moment listening for the voice,
'Rise up and come away.'"
It is a sure token of ripeness when you are standing on tiptoe, with your wings outspread, ready for flight. When no chainany longer binds you further to earth. When your love to things below is subordinate to your longing for the joys Above. Oh,it is sweet to sing with Dr. Watts-
"Father, I long, I faint to see
The place of Your abode;
I'd leave Your earthly courts, and flee
Up to Your seat, my God."
When we get to this in our very hearts, we are getting ripe, and we shall soon be gathered. The Master will not let His ripefruit hang long on the tree. Thus I have given you the marks of ripeness.
II. Briefly, Brethren, let us notice THE CAUSES OF THIS RIPENESS. So gracious a result must have a gracious cause. The firstcause of ripeness in Grace is the inward working of the sap. The fruit could never be ripe in its raw state were it takenaway from the bough. Outward agencies alone may produce rottenness, but not ripeness. Sun, shower, whatnot, all would fail-itis the vital sap within the tree that perfects the fruit. It is especially so in Grace.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, are you one with Christ? Are you sure you are? Are you sure your profession is connected with vitalgodliness? Is Jesus Christ formed within you? Do you abide in Him? If not, you need not think about maturity in Grace-youhad need to do your first works and repent-and turn unto Him. Everything between Hell and Heaven which denotes salvation isthe work of the Spirit of God, and the work of the Grace of Jesus. You not only cannot begin to live the Christian life, butyou cannot continue in it except as the Holy Spirit enables you.
That blessed Spirit, flowing to us from Christ-as He is the Creator of the first blossom-so He is the Producer of the fruit,and is the Ripener of it until it is gathered into the heavenly garner. Your sacraments, your attendance at a place of worship,your outward bowings of the knee in prayer-these are all vanity and less than nothing-unless there is this vital sap of theinward, spiritual Grace.
When the Truth of God is present in the hidden part, outer influences help. Fruit is ripened by the sun. His beams impartor produce in the fruit its perfectness of flavor. Sunless skies cause tasteless fruit. How sweetly Christians grow when theywalk in the light of God's Countenance! What a ripening influence the love of Jesus Christ has on the soul! When the loveof God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, how rapidly the Christian advances! I believe we ripen in Grace morein ten minutes when we live near to God than we might do in ten years of absence from His Presence.
Some fruit on a tree will not ripen fast, it is shielded from the sun. We have the cottagers pluck off the leaves from theirvines in our chilly climate in order to let the sun get at the vine, and bring out the color and ripeness of the clusters.Even thus the great Husbandman takes away many of the leaves of worldly comfort from us, that the comfort of His own dearPresence may come at us, and ripen us for Himself. We cannot have too much joy in the Lord, we cannot get too near to Him.We may well sing-
"When will You come unto me, Lord? O come, my Lord, most dear! Come near, come nearer, nearer still, I'm blessed when Youare near."
The joy of the Lord is your strength, and the joy of the Lord is your perfectness.
Still, Brethren, the fruit is no doubt equally ripened, though not as evidently so, by the shower and by the dew. All heatand no moisture, and there must be scarcely any fruit. So the dew of God's Spirit falling upon us, the constant shower ofGrace visiting us, and what if I add, even the trials and troubles of life, which are like showers to us-all these teach usby experience, and by experience we ripen for the skies. Some fruit I have heard of, especially the sycamore fig, never willripen except it is bruised.
It was the trade of Amos to be a bruiser of sycamore figs. They were struck with a long staff, and then after being wounded,they sweetened. How like so many of us! How many, many of us seem as if we never would be sweet till first we have been dippedin bitterness-never would be perfected till we have been smitten! We may trace many of our sharp trials, our bereavementsand our bodily pains to the fact that we are such sour fruit. Nothing will ripen us but heavy blows. Blessed be the Lord thatHe does not spare us. We would be ripe even if we were struck again and again. We cannot be content to continue in our sournessand immaturity-therefore, we meekly bless Him that He will strike us and make us ripe.
One idea I would correct before I pass from this-it is the notion that ripeness in Grace is the necessary result of age. Itis not so at all. Little children have been ripe for Glory! Yes, there have been authentic cases of their ripeness for Heaveneven at three years of age-strange things dying babes have said of Christ-and deeply experimental things, too. "Out of themouths of babes and sucklings" the Lord not only brings childlike praise, but He has "perfected praise," or, as David hasit, "You have ordained strength because of Your enemies." "Many an aged Christian is not an experienced Christian, for hisexperience-though it may be the experience of a Christian-may not have been Christian experience of an advanced kind.
An old sailor who has never left the river is not an experienced mariner. An old soldier who never saw a battle is no veteran.Remember it is in the kingdom of God very much as it is with God Himself, one day may be as a thousand years. God can, asSolomon tells us, give subtlety to the simple and teach the young man knowledge and discretion. Years with Grace will producegreater maturity, but what I want to say is that years without Divine Grace will produce no such maturity. The mere lapseof time will not advance us in the Divine life. We do not ripen necessarily because our years fulfill their tale-gray hairsand great Grace are not inseparable companions.
Time may be wasted as well as improved. We may be petrified rather than perfected by the flow of years. Here it may be wellto note that there is no reason why a young Christian should not make great advance towards this maturity, even while young.The Lord's Grace is independent of time and age. The Holy Spirit is not limited by youth, nor restrained by fewness of days.Young Samuel may excel aged Eli. A holy babe is riper than a backsliding man. Timothy was more mature than Diotrephes.
Jesus can lead you, my youthful Brothers and Sisters, to high degrees of fellowship with Himself. He can make you to be ablessing even while yet you are young. I pray you aspire to the nearest place to Jesus, and like young John, lie in the Master'sbosom. Truly, the aged have the help of experience, and in any case they deserve our reverent esteem. But let neither oldnor young imagine that the merely natural fact of age has any influence in the spiritual life. God's work is the same in oldand young, and owes nothing to the merely natural vigor of youth, or equally natural prudence of age.
III. Thus we have given you the causes of ripeness. Briefly let us show you THE DESIRABILITY OF RIPENESS IN GRACE. It is necessaryto dwell on this head because many Christians appear to think that if they are just Believers it is enough. We do not in businessthink it enough if we barely escape bankruptcy. A man does not say, if his dear child has been ill in bed for years that itis quite enough so long as the child is alive.
We do not think that of our own bodies, that so long as we can breathe it is enough. If anyone were dragged out of the Serpentineand life was just in him, we should not feel it sufficient to discover the vital spark and there leave it. No, we pursue theprocesses of resuscitation till the person is perfectly restored. To be just alive as a Christian is horrid work. It is apoor state to be in to be always trying to see whether we are alive by putting the looking glass of evidences to the lipsto see if there is just a trace of gracious vapor on the surface. It is a dolorous thing to be always groaning-
"It is a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I His, or am I not?"
Yet too many are content to continue in this ignominious condition. Brethren, it is desirable that you should get out of it,and come to ripeness in Grace by God's Spirit, for, first, ultimate ripeness is an index of the health of your soul. The fruitwhich under proper circumstances does not ripen is not a good fruit-it must be an unwholesome production. Your soul can surelynot be as it should be if it does not ripen under the influence of God's love and the work of His Grace. The gardener's rewardis the ripe fruit. You desire that Christ should see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied-do you think He will findthat satisfaction in sour grapes?
Is He to find His recompense in griping apples? No, Sir. The gardener wants the mature productions of the soil and he doesnot count that he has a return for his labor till he gathers ripe fruit. Let the Redeemer find ripe fruit in you. Say withthe spouse, "Let my Beloved come into His garden, and eat His pleasant fruits." Endeavor to imitate her when she said, "Atour gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for You, O Beloved." Present yourself to Him,and may He present you to the Father made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light!
It is the ripe fruit which proves the excellence of the tree. The tree may bear a name in very good repute, but if the fruitnever ripens, very soon the gardener will remove it from the orchard. The Church's repute among wise men is gained not fromher raw and green members, but from her ripe Believers-these are they by whose steadfast holiness those whose verdict is worththe having will be ruled. I would have men compelled to own that the Church is a goodly vine and her fruit most pleasant tothe taste.
To break the metaphor, the Church wants mature Christians very greatly, and especially when there are many fresh convertsadded to it. New converts furnish impetus to the Church, but her backbone and substance must, under God, lie with the maturemembers. We want mature Christians in the army of Christ to play the part of veterans, to inspire the rest with coolness,courage, and steadfastness. For if the whole army is made up of raw recruits the tendency will be for them to waver when theonslaught is fiercer than usual.
The old guard, the men who have breathed smoke and eaten fire before, do not waver when the battle rages like a tempest-theycan die but they cannot surrender. When they hear the cry of, "Forward," they may not rush to the front so nimbly as the youngersoldiers, but they drag up the heavy artillery and their advance, once made, is secure. They do not reel when the shots flythick, but still hold their own, for they remember former fights when Jehovah covered their heads.
The Church wants in these days of flimsiness and timeserving, more decided, thorough-going, well-instructed, and confirmedBelievers. We are assailed by all sorts of new doctrines. The old faith is attacked by so-called reformers who would reformit all away. I expect to hear tidings of some new doctrine once a week. So often as the moon changes, some "prophet" or otheris moved to propound a new theory, and believe me, he will contend more valiantly for his novelty than ever he did for theGospel! The discoverer thinks himself a modern Luther-and of his doctrine he thinks as much as David of Goliath's sword-"Thereis none like it."
As Martin Luther said of certain men in his day, these inventors of new doctrines stare at their discoveries like a cow ata new gate-as if there were nothing else in all the world but the one thing for them to stare at. We are all expected to gomad for their fashions, and march to their piping. But do we give place?-no, not for an hour! They may muster a troop of rawrecruits, and lead them where they would-but for confirmed Believers they sound their bugles in vain. Children run after everynew toy. Any little performance in the street, and the boys are all agog, gaping at it.
But their fathers have work to do abroad, and their mothers have other matters at home. Your drum and whistle will not drawthem out. For the solidity of the Church, for her steadfastness in the faith, for her defense against the constantly recurringattacks of heretics and infidels. For her permanent advance and the seizing of fresh provinces for Christ
we want not only your young, hot bloods, which may God always send to us, for they are of immense service and we cannot dowithout them. But we need also the cool, steady, well-disciplined, deeply-experienced hearts of men who know by experiencethe Truth of God. Those that hold fast what they have learned in the school of Christ. May the Lord our God, therefore, sendus many such. They are wanted.
IV. And now I shall close by calling your attention to THE GREAT SOLEMNITY OF THE SUBJECT. We have
tried to treat it pleasantly, and to instruct after the Master's example by parables, but there is much of weight here, muchof deep and solemn weight. The first is to me, to you, professor of the faith of Christ, a solemn question-am I ripening?
I remember when a child, seeing on the mantel a stone apple, wonderfully like an apple, too, and very well colored. I sawthat apple years after, but it was no riper. It had been in unfavorable circumstances for softening and sweetening, if itever would have become mellow. But I do not think if the sun of the Equator had shone on it, or if the dews of Hermon hadfallen on it, it would ever have been fit to be brought to table. Its hard marble substance would have broken a giant's teeth.
It was a hypocritical professor, a hard-hearted mocker of little children, a mere mimic of God's fruits. There are Churchmembers who used to be unkind, covetous, censorious, bad-tempered, egotistical-everything that was hard and stony-are theyso now? Have they not mellowed with the lapse of years? No, they are worse if anything-very dogs in the house for snappingand snarling, rending and devouring. They are great men at hewing down the carved work of the sanctuary with their axes, orat filling up wells and marring good pieces of land with stones. When the devil wants a stone to fling at a minister he issure to use one of them.
Well, now, are these people Christians at all? Are they? Let your senses exercise themselves. I leave you each one to judge.If these are extreme cases, let me ask-are there not many in whom ripeness is certainly not very apparent? No growing downwardsin humility, no growing upwards in fellowship with God, no doing more, no giving more, no loving more, no praying more, nopraising more, no sympathizing more. Are you, then, a fruit unto God at all? Solemn question! I put it to myself as in thesight of God, and I ask you to do the same to yourselves.
Another question also rises up. There is constantly going on in every man, specially in every professed Christian, some processor other. And I believe that one of two processes will go on in us-the one is ripening, the other is rotting. Now rottingand ripening are exceedingly like each other in appearance up to a certain stage. You will sometimes find upon your tree afruit which seems perfectly ripe and has all the signs of ripeness a month before the proper time, outstripping thus all theother fruit.
You must not think it is ripe. Cut it open, there is a worm inside. That noxious worm is to all appearances producing thesame effect as the blessed sun and dew. So the worm of secret sin will eat out the heart of a professor, and yet it will outwardlyproduce in him the same quality of speech, the same apparent sanctity of life which the Holy Spirit truly produces in a realChristian-but still the fair outside conceals a foul interior. The whitewashed sepulcher is full of decay. That fruit whichmimics ripeness is rotten. Leave it alone, and it will soon be a thing fit only for the dunghill.
My dear Friends, I have lived long enough, young as I am, to have seen some turn out to be very rotten hypocrites, thoughonce they were in general esteem as more than ordinarily good men. I am sure we have all admired and loved persons who afterawhile have turned out to be utterly unworthy. They looked the more ripe because they were rotten- they were obliged to tryand look like holy men because they feared that their real unholiness would be found out.
Just as some failing merchants make all the greater show to conceal their insolvency-you will rot if you do not ripen, dependon it. He that in the Church of God does not grow more heavenly will become more devilish. It is a hard thing to be in thehot house of an earnest Church without growing more rank if you do not grow more fruitful. Mind this, and God give you togrow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
One other reflection, and a very solemn one it is. While good fruits ripen, evil plants ripen, too. While the wheat ripensfor the harvest, the tares ripen, also. They may grow together, and ripen together, but they will not be housed together.Dear Hearers, some of you have been in this place now for years, and you are not converted. Well, you are ripening, you cannothelp that. Even weeds and tares come to maturity. "Let both grow together till the harvest."
Look at these galleries and this vast area. I see before me three great fields of corn and tares. You are mingled while yougrow. "Let both grow together till the harvest," that is the ripening and the dividing time. You are all growing, all
ripening. Then, when all are ripe in the time of harvest, He will say to the reapers, "Gather together first the tares, bindthem in bundles to burn them. Gather the wheat into My barn."
O Sinner, your unbelief is ripening and it will ripen into despair! Your enmity to God is ripening and it will ripen intoeverlasting rebellion against Him. Even now your heart grows harder and more stubborn, and your death in sin becomes morehopeless every hour you live. Remember there shall be no hope that your character will undergo improvement in another world.Then shall be fulfilled the saying which is written, "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still."
Forever and forever the processes which ripen sin will continue to operate on condemned spirits, "where their worm dies not,and their fire is not quenched." God grant you Grace to believe in Jesus Christ NOW-that you may receive the new nature-andhaving received it, may grow up into ripeness, so that God may be glorified. May we all be housed in the garner of ripe fruitin the King's own Palace above! Amen and Amen.