Seventh Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Mat. 7.v.15 Wednesday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
CRANACH, Lucas the Younger
Weimar Altarpiece: Crucifixion (central panel)
GOSPEL Matthew 7:15-21
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, and the evil tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can an evil tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them. Not every one that saith to Me: Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.Wednesday Meditation
Besides the practice & exercise of acts of Religion, we may discern heretics, & false Prophets by their exercise of moral virtues, which are also as it were fruits of Religion, and this may be that also, that Christ teacheth us here in these words: Ye shall know them by their fruits, that is to say, you shall know their religion whether it be good or bad, by their moral virtues or vices.
If their fruits be good it is a sign their religion is good, if bad it is a sign their religion is bad; for as Christ sayth, A good tree bringeth not forth bad fruit, nor a bad, good. But how this may be verified, there is some difficulty therein: For if by the tree we understand every particular person it is evident, that of every Religion there be some bad and some good, & some times of the best Religion there be some particular persons as bad, and peradventure worse, then of any other.
To verify therefore the words of Christ, we must understand by the Tree, not every particular person, for Christ approved the doctrine of the Scribes and Pharisees, & bid the people do as they said, because they sat upon Moses chair, but condemned their fruits, and bid the people not do as they did, because they said and did not.
If Christ here had meant, particular persons by trees, he would have called them Vines also in other places of Scripture where he used the like Metaphor or phrase of speech, but he called them branches saying to his disciples:I am a Vine,ye are branches, every branch that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut of, and cast into the fire.
So that if Christ had meant particular persons,he would have called them branches,and said,not every tree,but every branch that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down,and cast into the fire.
Wherefore the tree which Christ meaneth here, is the whole universal body, Congregation,or Church of any Religion true or false, & in that sense, take me any Religion whatsoever, and you shall not find it to yield as good fruits of virtue, and good works as the universal Catholic Roman Church; and of this her very enemies shall be Judges,who cannot but confess that it yieldeth better fruits of virtue & good life then any other,witness the infinite number of famous Saints and holy people of that Church, witness the goodly Monuments of piety & virtue, the admirable and stupendous Churches,Chapels & religious houses, Hospitals,Schools,and the like, erected & funded by them, and endowed with ample rent &revenues belonging unto them to the worlds end, if the injury and iniquity of ill times did not dissolve them, and other charitable and virtuous good works, what not? Moreover this Metaphor of Christ (A good tree brigheth not forth bad fruit,nor a bad good) Catholics may interpret another way, and apply it to themselves, for their better increase in virtue, in this manner: Some trees have their virtue in the leaves,some in the bark,some in the root, some in the bud &c. some in all these all these, as the tree whose bark is said to be Cinnamon, the root Ginger, the fruit nutmegs, the buds and blossoms Cloves & mace, and all this one and the same tree.
Such a tree is described in the Apocalypse, or Revelation of St.John the Evangelist. Such a tree is absolutely a good tree indeed, in comparison of a tree that bring forth some good fruit, together with bad, as an apple tree that hath one graft of a sour wilding or Crabbe inserted into it.
A man of all virtues and no vice, though in a remiss, and mean degree, is a good tree, in comparison of another that hath one virtue, or more, though in a high degree mixed with some vices,and notable imperfections.
That a man be truly virtuous indeed, that he may be said to be absolutely a good tree, there must be in him, an entire aggregation or concatenation of all virtues in him in some degree at least; if he bring forth any bad fruit, any notable vice together with his virtues,he loose the name of a good tree, yea although he bring forth no bad fruit, declining only from evil (as some be so coldly & cowardly affected,that they aim no further, which is but the one half of Christian righteous) and doth not aspire to do good, he is not a good tree,and therefore Christ sayth here, not every tree that bring forth bad fruit, but every tree that bring not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire,and the Prophet David biddeth us not only, to decline from evil, and rest there,but decline from evil, and do good.