Note, next, that the fruit which comes from a Christian is fruit worthy of his character: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” Each tree bears its own fruit, and is known by it. The righteous man bears righteous fruit; and do not let us be at all deceived, brethren, or fall into any error about this, “he that doeth righteousness is righteous,” and “he that doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” We are prepared, I hope, to die for the doctrine of justification by faith, and to assert before all adversaries that salvation is not of works; but we also confess that we are justified by a faith which produces works, and if any man has a faith which does not produce good works, it is the faith of devils. Saving faith appropriates the finished work of the Lord Jesus, and so saves by itself alone, for we are justified by faith without works; but the faith which is without works cannot bring salvation to any man. We are saved by faith without works, but not by a faith that is without works, for the real faith that saves the soul works by love and purifies the character.
If you can cheat across the counter, your hope of heaven is a cheat, too; though you can pray as prettily as anybody, and practise acts of outward piety as well as any other hypocrite, you are deceived if you expect to be right at last. If as a servant you are lazy, lying, and loitering, or if as a master you are hard, tyrannical, and un-Christianlike towards your men – your fruit shows that you are a tree of Satan’s own orchard, and bear apples which will suit his tooth. If you can practise tricks of trade, and if you can lie – and how many do lie every day about their neighbours or about their goods! – you may talk as you like about being justified by faith, but all liars will have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and amongst the biggest liars you will be, for you are guilty of the lie of saying, “I am a Christian,” whereas you are not. A false profession is one of the worst of lies, since it brings the utmost dishonour upon Christ and His people.
The fruit of the righteous is righteousness: the fig tree will not bring forth thorns, neither shall we gather grapes from thistles. The tree is known by its fruit, and if we cannot judge men’s hearts, and must not try to do so, we can judge their lives; and I pray God we may all be ready to judge our own lives, and see if we are bringing forth righteous fruit, for if not, we are not righteous men.
Let it, however, never be forgotten that the fruit of the righteous, though it comes from him naturally, for his new-born nature yields the sweet fruit of obedience, yet it is always the result of grace, and the gift of God. No truth ought to be remembered more than this, “From Me is thy fruit found.” We can bring forth no fruit except as we abide in Christ. The righteous shall flourish as a branch, and only as a branch. How does a branch flourish? By its connection with the stem, and the consequent inflowing of the sap; and so, though the righteous man’s righteous actions are his own, yet they are always produced by the grace which is imparted to him, and he never dares to take any credit for them, but he sings, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give praise.”
If he fails, he blames himself; if he succeeds, he glorifies God. Imitate his example. Lay every fault, every weakness, every infirmity at your own door; and if you fall in any respect short of perfection – and I am sure you do – take all that to yourself, and do not excuse yourself; but if there be any virtue, any praise, any true desire, any real prayer, anything that is good, ascribe it all to the Spirit of God. Remember, the righteous man would not be righteous unless God had made him righteous, and the fruit of righteousness would never come from him unless the divine sap within him had produced that acceptable fruit. To God alone be all honour and glory.
Spurgeon, Charles H (2012-03-27). The Soul Winner (Kindle Locations 2148-2176). Counted Faithful. Kindle Edition.
For a brief sermon on the life of Charles Spurgeon by Steve Lawson, preached in December 2013, go here.