September 2, 1858, by Philpot
Man unites in himself what at first sight seem to be completely opposite things; he is the greatest of sinners—and yet the greatest of Pharisees. Now, what two things can be so opposed to each other as sin and self-righteousness? Yet the very same man who is a sinner from top to toe, with the whole head sick and the whole heart faint, who is spiritually nothing else but a leper throughout, how contradictory it appears that the same man has in his own heart a most stubborn self-righteousness.
Now, against these two evils God, so to speak, directs his whole artillery—he spares neither one nor the other; but it is hard to say which is the greatest rebellion against God—the existence of sin in man and what he is as a fallen sinner; or his Pharisaism—the lifting up his head in pride of self-righteousness. It is not easy to decide which is the more obnoxious to God—the drunkard who sins without shame; or the Pharisee puffed up with how pleasing he is to God.
The one is abhorrent to our feelings, and, as far as decency and morality are concerned, we would sooner see the Pharisee; but when we come to matters of true religion, the Pharisee seems the worst—at least our Lord intimated as much when he said the publicans and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before them.
Now, in this Book the Lord seems sometimes to knock Ephraim to pieces and then to put him together again. Sometimes we find denunciations against his backslidings, and then when Ephraim is broken to pieces the Lord seeks to raise him up, as he says in the 13th chapter, "When Ephraim spoke trembling, he exalted himself in
Never think to stand upright by your own self-righteousness—you have fallen by your iniquity, and now you must humble yourself before the Lord your God. Turn to the Lord your God and say unto him, "Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously, so will we render the calves of our lips"—that is, we will sing and praise your holy name. "Asshur shall not save us," that is the king of Assyria, "we will not ride upon horses," that is the devices of men, "neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, You are our gods"—our idols are self and self-righteousness—"for in you the fatherless finds mercy."
Well, I need not go on with the chapter. Ephraim shall say, "What have I to do any more with idols?" Here is Ephraim brought away from his idols—"I have heard him and observed him; I am like a green fig tree;" and then the words of our text, "From me is your fruit found," as though he would show Ephraim this—"Ephraim, though you are a sinner, let not that cast you down, so that you shall think there never can be any fruit in you—look upward and not to yourself for this fruit."
In opening up these words I shall with God's blessing show—
I. What is the fruit called here "your fruit."
II. How this fruit is from the Lord, "from me is your fruit found."
III. How this fruit not only is from the Lord but is found also to be such, and made manifest, for we not only have it from the Lord, but it is found to be from the Lord—"From me is your fruit found."
I. What is the fruit? Now, I sincerely believe that wherever God the Spirit has anything to do with a man's soul—(and oh! if God the Spirit has nothing to do with a man's soul, what a dreadful condition it is in!)—in his quickening and regenerating operations upon it, his communications of life and grace to it, there will always be a desire to bring forth fruit unto God. No child of God can be an Antinomian, especially when God first begins to work upon the heart. If he has been years in the work, there may be a leaning in his wretched heart to this weakness, to this carelessness—but no beginner has any leaning toward, or is ever upset, by this Antinomian devil. On the contrary, his longing is to work out his own righteousness. He is trying to keep the law, working hard to please God by a life of obedience—he is seeking to be holy, and endeavoring to overcome the wicked passions of his heart. So that you never find a child of God under the first teaching who has any leaning towards Antinomianism—it is his desire to please God by his own acts and words.