For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself
Without any further help, or cultivation from the husbandman; though under the influence of the sun, dews, and showers of rain from heaven: this is said, not to denote that man of himself, upon hearing the word, can bring forth the fruit of grace in himself; he cannot regenerate himself, nor quicken, nor convert himself; he cannot believe in Christ, nor love the Lord of himself; nor repent of his sin, nor begin, or carry on the good work; he can neither sanctify his heart, nor mortify the deeds of the body; or even bring forth the fruits of good works, when converted. For all these things are owing to the Spirit, power, and grace of God: men are regenerated according to the abundant mercy of God, of water and of the Spirit, by the word of truth, through the sovereign will and pleasure of God; and they are quickened, who before were dead in trespasses and sins, and were as dry bones, by the Spirit of God breathing upon them: conversion in the first production, is the Lord's work; "turn thou me, and I shall be turned": faith in Christ is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; and so is repentance unto life; love is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and in short, the whole work of grace is not by might, nor by power of man, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts; who begins and carries on, and performs it until the day of Christ: the work of sanctification, is therefore called the sanctification of the Spirit; and it is through him the deeds of the body are mortified: and indeed, without Christ, believers themselves can do nothing at all; even cannot perform good works, or do any action that is truly and spiritually good. But the design is to show, that as the earth without human power, without the husbandman, under the influence of the heavens, brings forth fruit; so without human power, without the Gospel minister, the word having taken root under divine influence, through the sun of righteousness, the dews of divine grace, and operations of the blessed Spirit, it rises up and brings forth fruit:
first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear;
which, as it very aptly describes the progress of the seed from first to last; so it very beautifully represents the gradual increase of the work of grace, under the instrumentality of the word, accompanied with the Spirit and power of God. Grace at first appearance is very small, like the small green spire, when it first shoots out of the earth: light into a man's self, his heart, his state and condition, in the knowledge of Christ, and the doctrines of the Gospel, is but very small; he is one of little faith, and weak in the exercise of it: faith is but at first a small glimmering view of Christ, a venture upon him, a peradventure there may be life and salvation for such an one in him; it comes at length to a reliance and leaning upon him; and it is some time before the soul can walk alone by faith on him: its experience of the love of God is but small, but in process of time there is a growth and an increase; light increases, which shines more and more unto the perfect day; faith grows stronger and stronger; experience of the love of God is enlarged; and the believer wades in these waters of the sanctuary; not only as at first up to the ankles, but to the knees and loins; when at length they are a broad river to swim in, and which cannot be passed over.