Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 6:43 - 6:45

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 6:43 - 6:45

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Luk_6:43-45. A good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble-bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

IT is of infinite importance to every man to attain a knowledge of his state and character before God. For, as such a knowledge would be the best preservative against a self-exalting and censorious spirit, so would it keep us from deluding ourselves with a merely nominal and formal religion [Note: See the context.]. In order to attain it we must examine our words and actions, and trace them to their proper source. Thus, by discovering what is in the heart, we shall be enabled to form a just estimate of our own character, and be guarded against a fatal presumption on the one hand, and a needless disquietude on the other. This mode of inquiry is suggested in the parable before us; which indeed deserves the more attention, because it was delivered by our Lord on several different occasions. There are two truths which it offers to our consideration:

I.       It is the heart that regulates the life—

The heart is, as it were, a fountain, from whence all our actions proceed—

In it there is a treasure either of good or evil—

[While we are unregenerate, we are full of erroneous principles, and sinful affections. We “think that God is even such an one as ourselves;” that he will neither “do good” to them that serve him, “nor evil” to those who rebel against him [Note: Psa_50:21. Zep_1:12.]. We judge sin to be light and venial, and a worldly carnal life to be consistent with a hope of immortality and glory. While such are our principles, what can be expected, but that “our affections should be set on things below, and not on things above?” Our hopes and fears, our joys and sorrows, are excited only by the things of time and sense: and those invisible realities, which alone deserve our esteem, are disregarded and despised. What a “treasure of evil” is thus formed within us [Note: Mar_7:21-23.]! who can number our rebellious thoughts, our unhallowed desires, our vicious indulgences? How has this treasure been accumulating from our earliest infancy to this present moment! and we, alas! are as averse to part with it as if it rendered us really happy, or would “profit us in the day of wrath.” The regenerate person, on the contrary, has within him a “treasure of good.” His principles and affections are the very reverse of what they once were. His views of God, of sin, and the world, are regulated by the Holy Scriptures; and his desires and pursuits are conformable to the dictates of religion. Thanks be to God, this treasure also is daily accumulating; and he esteems himself rich only in proportion as the love and fear of God increase in his heart.]

According as this treasure is, such will be the life—

[The “waters flowing from a fountain” must of necessity be “bitter or sweet” according as the fountain itself is good or bad. So where a treasure of evil is in the heart, the words and actions must be evil also. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth will speak;” and by that great moving spring will all the members be actuated. Doubtless there may be a freedom from gross immorality, and a conduct in many respects amiable and praiseworthy, while yet the heart is unrenewed: but fruit that is really good can no more proceed from an unregenerate soul, than “figs and grapes from a thorn or bramble-bush.” On the other hand, where the treasure of the heart is good, the life will certainly be good also. A holy practice must of necessity flow from holy principles and heavenly affections. We say not indeed but that there may be found some faults even in the holiest of men, even as blighted or unsound fruit may be found upon the choicest tree. But the good can no more practise iniquity, so as to continue in it, than the bad can bring forth habitually the fruits of righteousness. St. John assigns the same reason as is suggested in the text, “He can not sin, because the seed of God remainethin him [Note: 1Jn_3:9.],” and, as an operative principle, regulates his life.]

This truth being established, the other follows as a necessary consequence, viz.

II.      It is by the life that we must judge of the heart—

Though we are not to scrutinize too nicely the motives by which others are actuated, so as to form an uncharitable judgment respecting them, yet we may, and must in some cases, judge of men by their actions. Our Lord uttered the very parable before us on one occasion, expressly with a view to guard us against the influence of false teachers and false brethren [Note: Mat_7:15-16.]. But it is of our own hearts that we are principally called to judge; and assuredly,

The man whose life is good may know his heart also to be good—

[If “every tree is known by its own fruit,” (and no man hesitates to call a vine, or a bramble, by its proper name when he sees the fruit) we need be in no fear of concluding that our hearts are good, when our dispositions and actions accord with the word of God. No man indeed is perfectly good, because we still carry about with us “a body of sin and death:” but he, who discovers the renovation of his heart by the holiness of his life, is certainly possessed of a “good treasure,” and may justly be called “a good man.”]

The man also whose life is evil may conclude with equal certainty that his heart is evil—

[Many, when they cannot deny the sinfulness of their conduct, will yet affirm that their hearts are good. But what is this but to affirm, in spite of the most indubitable evidence to the contrary, that a bramble is a vine or fig-tree? Let any man put the question to his own conscience, Can a man, who lives in a neglect of God and his own soul, have a good heart? Can the proud, the passionate, the revengeful, the lewd, the intemperate, the covetous, have good hearts? Then may a bramble be a fig-tree, notwithstanding it never bears any thing but thorns and briers.]


1.       Those whose fruits are evil—

[It is not the openly profane, or the grossly sensual alone, but all, who are not really bringing forth the fruits of righteousness and true holiness, that we now address. And what must we say? Shall we flatter you? We dare not: the Scripture speaks plainly; and it would be at the peril of our souls to conceal the truth: St. John expressly calls you children of the devil [Note: 1Jn_3:8; 1Jn_3:10.]: and our Lord declares that everlasting fire must be your portion [Note: Mat_7:19; Mat_12:35-37.]. Shall it seem unreasonable that such should be the doom of the ungodly, while the righteous are admitted into heaven? Are you at a loss to assign a reason why so great a difference should be put between persons, who, to outward appearance, do not differ very widely from each other? Know that, if you trace the stream to its source, and examine their hearts, there will be found as great a difference between them, as between the portions that they shall hereafter receive. The one has nothing but a treasure of evil principles and evil affections within him; the other is a “partaker of the Divine nature,” and is “transformed into the very image of his God.” Seek then to have “a new heart and a right spirit renewed within you.” “Ye must be born again;” and that too for this plain reason, because what you have by nature is altogether carnal; and you must receive a spiritual nature to qualify you for the enjoyment of a spiritual kingdom [Note: Joh_3:6.]. Ye must become “new creatures:” “instead of the thorn must come up the fir-tree, and instead of the brier must come up the myrtle-tree,” if ever you would be monuments of God’s saving mercy [Note: Isa_55:13.].]

2.       Those whose fruits are good—

[Doubtless you wish to have your evidences of conversion more and more clear. With this view it will be well to mark all your words and actions, and to trace them to their motives and principles. But do not forget that though your own works are the evidences of your conversion, they are not the grounds of your acceptance with God. It is Christ’s obedience unto death that must be the one foundation of your hope. However holy your life be, your eyes must never be turned from Christ. He is your only, and your all-sufficient Saviour. In him you are to hope, as well when your evidences are obscured, as when they are bright. Nevertheless you should endeavour to abound more and more in all the fruits of righteousness, that you may have the comfort of an assured hope, and God may be glorified in your deportment.]