THE FIRST-FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.

BY REV. H. J. WILMOT-BUXTO, M.A.,
REVELATIO xxn. 2.
" In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was
there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded
her fruit every month : and the leaves of the tree were for the healing
of the nations."
|T. JOH the Divine was in banishment in
the island of Patmos. The tyrant Domitian,
who sat upon the seat of Caesar, had sent
the Apostle into exile, but although S. John was far
from friends and home, he was not far from God. o
banishment can banish us from Jesus, no prison door can
shut out our Saviour. They will show you in Patmos
to-day the rocky cave where S. John dwelt, and from
whose gloomy entrance he saw Heaven opened and
the things which shall be hereafter. What memories
must have come to the beloved Apostle as he knelt in
that rude cavern. As he gazed on the bright waters of
A
2 The FiFst-fpuits of the Spirit.
the JEgean Sea, blue as the skies above them, he must
have recalled that day by another sea, far away in
Galilee, when he had heard the voice of the Master
calling him to be a fisher of men. He must have
thought on the events of that most holy life which he
had understood with loving insight better than all the
rest; the memory of the Lord s miracles must have
come back to him, the turning the water into wine, the
feeding of the multitude, the raising of dead Lazarus,
miracles which had a deeper meaning for S. John than
for the other disciples. Then those wonderful teachings
of the Master, those talks about the water of life, and
the new birth by the Spirit, and the Light of the world,
and the True Vine, must have returned to S. John
with new and deeper meaning. As he gazed seaward
from his rocky cell, he must have seemed to see once
more the awful scene on Calvary, to feel the trembling
touch of the Virgin Mother, to hear the dying charge,
"Behold thy mother." Once more he was hastening
through the dim morning to the garden, and looking
down on an empty tomb from which the stone was
rolled away.
As S. John knelt in his rocky cavern, worn with
prayer and fasting, there came to him such visions as
the worldly, sensual man never sees. As the eye of
love can see what is hidden from all others sight, so
the loving Apostle was permitted to look on Heaven;
for it is only those who have the Kingdom of Heaven
within them, who can see its glories revealed to them.
The FiFstnfraits of the Spirit. 3
We do not know how the revelation came to him ; it
may be that it was when the sunset was filling all the
sea and sky with glory that S. John looked up into the
clouds, all bright with crimson and gold, and saw as it
were a shining city, whose gates were like twelve
pearls, and her foundations of stones most precious.
Amidst all that shining cloudland of glory he saw as it
were a river of water, clear as crystal, and on either
side of the river the tree of life. What that tree of life
was we know not, and we shall not know till we taste
of its fruit new in our Father s Kingdom. But we
who dwell in the garden of the Church here on earth
have a tree of life, even the Cross of the Lord Jesus
Christ
"Faithful Cross, above all other,
One and only noble Tree,
one in foliage, none in blossom,
one in fruit thy peer may be ;
Sweetest wood and sweetest iron ;
Sweetest weight is hung on thee."
It was the tree of death to our Master, but of life to
us, since Jesus by His death upon the Cross has over
come death, and by His rising to life again has restored
to us everlasting life. Our tree of life stands on either
side of the river. The river of death lies between us
and the better country, as Jordan lay between Israel
and the Promised Land ; and the power of the Cross,
the tree of life, extends beyond the river of death,
beyond this world in,to the world to come. Here, on
The Fiirst^fpuits of the Spirit.
this side of the river, it is our salvation ; there, on the
other side, it will be our joy, our glory.
And notice that the tree of life had twelve manner of
fruits, and yielded her fruit every month. Here we see
the Holy Church giving us the precious fruit of the
Cross, the teachings of the Gospel, month by month,
through the twelve months of the year. For every
season of the Church there is the special fruit, the
special teaching, provided. Advent warning, Christmas
joy, enlightening at Epiphany, sorrow and humiliation
in Lent, bitter grief and penitence at Passion-tide, joy
and gladness at Easter and Ascension. Each comes at
its appointed time, the tree of life bears twelve manner
fruits, and yields her fruit every month.
The leaves of the tree of life are, we are told, for the
healing of the nations. What disease of the soul is there
for which the Cross of Christ has no healing medicine ?
Are we poor and in misery ? The memory of our Master
with no place where He might lay His Head, despised
and rejected of men, will help us to bear our trouble,
knowing that if we suffer with Him we shall be glorified
together. 7s it loss or bereavement ? Jesus lost all,
friends, home, life itself, and He Who suffered loss for
our gain will heal us of our sickness. Is it loneliness ?
Jesus on the lonely Cross, treading the winepress
alone, has medicine to cure us. 7s it doubt, or
cowardice, or shrinking from pain ? The perfect trust
of the Son in the Father, the perfect courage of the
Son of God, the perfect patience of the suffering
The phrsMruits of the Spirit. 5
Saviour, these are precious healing balsams for the
weakest of us.
And now let us think of the fruits of the tree of life.
They are what S. Paul calls the fruits of the Spirit,
purchased for us by Christ on the Cross, given to us,
His Church, by the Holy Spirit. The first fruit of the
Spirit is love. S. Paul puts that at the head in his
glorious list. " The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meek
ness, temperance." S. Paul puts love first because it
is the seed from which all other good things spring, it
is the source from which all streams of holiness flow,
it is the keynote from which all the music of righteous
ness is tuned. Without love there can be no true joy,
nor peace, nor long-suffering, nor gentleness, nor good
ness, nor faith, nor meekness, nor temperance. All
religion is bound up in the two commandments Love
the Lord thy God and thy neighbour as thyself. Love
fulfills all God s law.
Love comes first among the fruits of the Spirit
because it is divine ; God is love, and when we have
love we are most like God. Love is the foundation
upon which all our religion is built, upon the love of
God and of our neighbour hang all the law and the
prophets. S. Paul says, " ow abideth faith, hope,
charity, but the greatest of these is chanty," that is
love. Without love nothing that we do is worth
anything.
First, we think of the love of God. Can I describe it
6 The First-fpuits of the Spirit.
to you ? I might as well try to count the drops in the
ocean, or the stars which shine above it
"God only knows the love of God."
We talk of it, we read of it, we think of it, but we
cannot realize it, or understand it. Jesus said once to
His disciples, " What I do thou knowest not now, but
thou shalt know hereafter." That is true of all which
our Lord has done, and is doing, for us. We cannot
understand it now. We read of God so loving the
world that He sent His only-begotten Son to suffer
and die for our redemption. We read this, and we
believe it, but do we understand it ? Do you think
those Jewish shepherds, and those wise men from the
East, who first saw the Son of God lying in the manger
at Bethlehem, understood all that it meant ? o, they
believed or they worshipped, but they could not under
stand. either can we after nineteen centuries of
Christianity understand the greatness of the love of
God which made Him condescend to that lowly birth,
which laid the King of Glory in a manger, which made
Him willing to be of no reputation, and to take the
form of a servant. Do you suppose that those who
watched the Lord Jesus dying upon the Cross under
stood all the love which made Him lay down His life
for sinners ? The careless, unbelieving crowd did not,
any more than it does to-day ; but even the tender
hearts of the faithful, the Virgin Mother, the loving
S. John, could not understand the great love of God ;
The Fit s t-f raits of the Spirit. 7
and we, after all these centuries, cannot understand it
either ; some of us are scarcely touched by the story of
Good Friday as it comes round year after year. But
the love of God is still there, though we cannot under
stand it. He purchased man s salvation, though man
could not know what He was doing. He loves us
to-day, though we cannot fully comprehend His love.
"What I do thou knovvest not now." That is true
of God s dealing with us to-day. We bring our child
to the font in Holy Baptism, some of us are very simple
folk, and we do not understand much about it ; but we
know that the Lord Jesus commanded the children to
be brought unto Him, and so we obey. Well, we do
not understand all that God does for the child in that
Sacrament, but His love is there all the same, and He
washes our child s soul till it is whiter than snow.
So when we draw near to the Altar of the Blessed
Sacrament. We do not understand much about it,
how can we ? Some of us are plain, ignorant folk,
all we know is to obey our Master s command, so we
come as children come to the parent s call, not under
standing much, but, like the children, we are fed. Our
want of understanding does not stop God s love, He
gives us such good things as pass man s understanding.
" What I do, thou knowest not now." o, we do
not know, but God does. If you were to take a voyage
in a steamship, would you expect to understand all the
working of the machinery and the management of the
ship ? o, you would leave that to the captain. So
8 The FiFst*ftraits of the Spirit.
in the voyage of life we cannot understand much of the
workings of providence, nor why things should be thus
and thus. Half of the misery and the unbelief of the
world arises from people wanting to knovy too much, to
be as God, knowing good and evil. We do not go on
board a ship and say I refuse to believe in this ship s
safety, or the skill of her officers, unless I understand
fully the meaning of every order given, and every move
ment of the machinery. Yet some of us refuse to believe
in the goodness and love of God because we cannot
understand all His dealings with us.
Brethren, learn to believe that however rough your
way of life may be, however many the troubles and
sorrows which befall you, it is God s love, which is
leading you, and dealing with you, for your good.
ow you cannot understand this, of course. You
think you can realize God s love when He makes your
life smooth and pleasant ; when all things prosper with
you, you say God is very good to me. But if God
afflicts you, sends you illness, or sorrow, or loss, you
cry out that God has forgotten to be gracious. You
cannot understand why you should suffer. The sick
man does not understand why he must swallow bitter
medicine, but he does not doubt the loving care of the
hand which gives it. The sufferer undergoing an oper
ation does not understand why the keen knife is applied,
but he does not doubt the wisdom and goodness of the
surgeon who wounds him only to cure. You say to
me, perhaps I do not see God s love in afflicting me
The FiFst-ftfuits of the Spirit. 9
so severely. either does your child understand that
it is love which makes you refuse certain of its requests,
or makes you chastise it for its faults. One refuses to
see God s love in giving him a crippled leg, another in
taking away his sight or his hearing. He says What
have I done that I should have to bear this ?
Ah, my brethren, it is God s love, not His anger,
which is afflicting you. He is making you perfect
through sufferings, He is letting you receive the print
of the nails. He whispers, "What I do thou knowest
not now." You of the crippled limb do not know that
you were not walking in God s way, and that when you
were strong and active you chose your own road rather
than His. You of the deaf ears do not know that you
listened too much to the voices of the world, and God
afflicted you that you might be able to hearken to the
still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to your
heart. You of the blinded eyes, God shut out the
sights of the world from you that you might learn to
see more clearly the things which concern your peace.
You who have known bereavement, who have seen
husband, or wife, or child taken away, do you doubt
God s love ? Ah, if we only knew ! If we could only
understand that we were loving the creature more than
the Creator, putting wife, or child, or husband before
God, blocking up the way to Heaven with our earthly
idols, then we should know that it was love which took
them away. Do you murmur at God s Hand because
He took your child away ? Would you rather that the
io The First>?FUits of the Spirit.
child should have grown up to disgrace your name, to
break your heart, to lose his soul ? Oh, believe me,
it is God s love which afflicts, though we cannot
understand.
It is not so great a wonder that some people need
much sorrow to change and soften their nature. The
farmer has a plot of ground on his farm that wants
more ploughing and breaking up than all the other
land put together. Of course the land does not know
why it is more broken by plough and harrow than all
the rest, but the farmer knows the reason, the land is
the hardest and the roughest of all. You see a man put
the metal through the hottest fire again and again, and
you ask him the reason, and he tells you it is because
it is so full of dross and impurity. Ah, some of us are so
hard, and so impure, that we need the fire or the
ploughshare over and over again. It is God s love
which deals with us so. Some of us, many of us, need
much stern treatment that we may cease to be hard
and worthless. It is God s love which brings out the
best of us in the rough times of trouble. His stars
shine brightest when the night is darkest. Learn,
then, to see God s love in your troubles, pray that
the Holy Spirit may teach you God s love.
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