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          God's Pruning-knife

from a sermon on John 15:1-3 by John Brown of Edinburgh

It has been justly remarked, "that even the believer in the present state, when left long unvisited by the severe applications of God's word and providence, is apt to feel a spirit of easy self-indulgent indolence creeping over his spiritual faculties, under which the display of christian character, and the exercise of christian principles, and the exhibition of christian conduct, become faint and languid; while, like a luxuriance of idle foliage, enfeebling his soul's productive energies, a profusion of worldly lusts, and principles, and habits, effloresces and overruns his soul" [Brown Patterson]. It is the will of the great Husbandman [i.e., Vinedresser], that the fruitful branches should become yet more fruitful that their fruit should improve both in quality and quantity – and he uses the appropriate means. His word and his providence are the means he employs. When God comes with his pruning-knife to lop off those luxuriances – to remove those pollutions of the world which prevent our fruitfulness – we are sometimes ready to think that He is come to destroy us as barren branches, fit only for the fire; but the great Husbandman is wise and merciful – he knows what He is doing, though we do not – and all his thoughts towards "the trees of righteousness, the branches of his own planting," are "thoughts of peace and not of evil." However keen, then, the stroke, however deep the wound, this is the true Christian's comfort – 'He chastens me that I may be a partaker of his holiness; these chastisements, not joyous, but grievous as they are, will end in a more abundant production of the peaceable fruits of righteousness.'


Happy is that man who, when "chastened by the Lord, that he may not be condemned with the wicked," has the testimony in himself, that under the power of divine truth and influence, his afflictions are serving their purpose – who has the consciousness that he is waiting for that expected day when, transplanted from this bleak climate, and sterile soil, he shall be planted by the river of life, under the direct genial influence of the Sun of righteousness, where he shall no more be in danger of the curse of barrenness, but, bringing forth fruit, both in kind and abundance, worthy of Him by whom he is dressed, shall obtain "blessing of God" [Heb. 6:7].




John Brown (1784-1858) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and a grandson of John Brown of Haddington. In sermon and commentary his expository skills were all but unrivalled and his godly influence lives on through his writings.



'The True Vine,' Discourses and Sayings of our Lord, by John Brown, vol. 3 (Banner of Truth Trust, 1990). pp246-247.