The Spirit Fructifying
In the Song of Solomon
Far more is said in Scripture upon this aspect of our many-sided subject than is generally supposed—different figures being used, especially in the Old Testament, to express the graces and virtues which the Spirit imparts to and develops in the elect. A considerable variety of emblems are employed to set them forth. They are frequently referred to as flowers and gardens of them, to beds of spices, and unto trees and orchards. For example, in Solomon’s Song we hear Christ saying to His Spouse: "A garden enclosed is My sister, My Spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphor, with spikenard. Spikenard and saffron; calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense; myrrh and aloes, with all the chief spices: a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon" (Song. 4:12-15).
The figures used in the above passage are very beautiful and call for careful consideration. A "garden" is a piece of ground distinguished and separated from others, for the owner’s use and delight; so the Church of Christ is distinguished and separated from all other people by electing, redeeming, and regenerating grace. In a garden is a great variety of plants, herbs, and flowers—so in the Church there are members differing much from each other, yet in all there is that which is delightful to their Lord. In a garden the plants and flowers do not grow up naturally of themselves, they do not spring forth spontaneously from its soil, but have to be set or sown, for nothing but weeds grow up of themselves; so in Christ’s Church, those excellencies which are found in its members are not natural to them, but are the direct productof the Spirit’s operations, for by nature nothing grows in their hearts but the weeds of sin and corruption.
The commentators are not agreed as to whether Christ is speaking to His Spouse in verse 15, or whether She is there heard replying to what He had said in verses 12-14. Personally, we strongly incline to the latter: that Christ having commended His Church as a fruitful garden, She now ascribes it all to Him: "A Fountain of gardens, a Well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon." Yet, if we accept the former interpretation, it amounts to much the same thing, for He would there be explaining what it was that made His Garden so fertile. To be healthy and productive a garden must be well watered, otherwise its delicate plants will quickly wilt and wither; the same being true of trees and all vegetation: a plentiful supply of water is indispensable. Consequently, in keeping with the fact that believers are likened unto plants and trees, and their graces to flowers and fruits, the quickening, renewing, reviving, and fructifying operations of the Spirit are spoken of as "dew," as "showers," as "streams in the desert," etc.
The Holy Spirit not only imparts life and holiness, but He sustains the same in the soul; He not only communicates heavenly graces, but He cultivates and develops them. "That they might be called Trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He might be glorified . . . For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations" (Isa. 61:3, 11). Yes, the same One who "planted" those "trees of righteousness" must also "cause them" to "spring forth" to grow and bear fruit. While the tendency of the new nature is ever Godwards, yet it has no power of its own, being entirely dependent upon its Creator and Giver. Hence, that fruit which is borne by the believer is expressly called "the fruit of the Spirit" so that the honor and glory may be ascribed alone unto Him. "From Me is thy fruit found" (Hosea 14:8).
"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses" (Isa. 44:3, 4). Just as surely as a drought brings famine, so the absence of the Spirit’s working leaves all in a state of spiritual death; but just as heavy rains renew a parched vegetation, so an outpouring of the Spirit brings new life. Then shall it indeed be said, "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose" (Isa. 35:1), which is expressly interpreted for us by the Spirit in, "For the LORD shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody" (Isa. 51:3). We have purposely added Scripture to Scripture because the spiritual meaning of these passages is commonly unperceived today, when carnal dispensationalists insist on the ignoring of all figures, and the interpreting of everything "literally."
"My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you" (Gal. 4: 19)—that which the Apostle did ministerially, the Spirit does efficiently. This is how the Spirit makes the Christian fruitful, or rather, it is how He first fits him to be fruitful: by forming Christ in him! The metaphor is taken from the shaping of the child in its mother’s womb, so that as its natural parents communicated the matter of its body, it is then framed and shaped into their likeness, limb for limb, answering to themselves. In like manner, the Spirit communicates to the heart an incorruptible "seed" (1 John 3:9) or spiritual nature, and then conforms the soul unto Christ’s image: first to His graces, and then to His example: "That ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you" (1 Pet. 2:9)—which we could not do unless we had first receivedthem. Ah, my reader, this is a solemn thing: we pass among men for genuine Christians, but the only coins which will pass the eye of God are those which bear stamped upon them the image of His Son.
In other words, then, the Spirit’s fructifying of the believer is the conforming of him unto Christ,first in his heart, and then in his life. By nature we are totally unlike Christ, being born in the image of Adam and dominated by Satan; or, to revert to the figure in the opening paragraph, so far from resembling a beautiful and well-kept garden, we are like a barren desert, where nothing but useless shrubs and poisonous weeds are found. "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down" (Prov. 24:30, 31). That is how we appeared unto the holy eye of God in our unregenerate state! It is only when a miracle of grace has been wrought in our hearts that Christ begins to be formed in us, and that we (in our measure) reproduce His graces; and this is due solely to the sovereign and effectual operations of the Holy Spirit. (Please click here to continue reading, "The Spirit Fructifying")