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Verse 1

1.I am the true Vine. The general meaning of this comparison is, that we are, by nature, barren and dry, except in so far as we have been engrafted into Christ, and draw from him a power which is new, and which does not proceed from ourselves. I have followed other commentators in rendering ἄμπελος by vitis, (a vine,) and κλήματα by palmites, (branches.) Now, vitis (a vine) strictly denotes the plant itself, and not a field planted with vines, which the Latin writers call vinea, (a vineyard;) although it is sometimes taken for vinea a vineyard; as, for example, when Cicero mentions in the same breath,pauperum agellos et vlticulas, the small fields and small vineyards of the poor Palmites (branches) are what may be called the arms of the tree, which it sends out above the ground. But as the Greek word κλὢμα sometimes denotes a vine, and ἄμπελος,a vineyard, I am more disposed to adopt the opinion, that Christ compares himself to a field planted with vines, and compares us to the plants themselves. On that point, however, I will not enter into a debate with any person; only I wish to remind the reader, that he ought to adopt that view which appears to him to derive greater probability from the context.

First, let him remember the rule which ought to be observed in all parables; that we ought not to examine minutely every property ofthe vine, but only to take a general view of the object to which Christ applies that comparison. Now, there are three principal parts; first, that we have no power of doing good but what comes from himself; secondly, that we, having a root in him, are dressed and pruned by the Father; thirdly, that he removes the unfruitful branches, that they may be thrown into the fire and burned.

There is scarcely any one who is ashamed to acknowledge that every thing good which he possesses comes from God; but, after making this acknowledgment, they imagine that universal grace has been given to them, as if it had been implanted in them by nature. But Christ dwells principally on this, that the vital sap — that is, all life and strength (76) — proceeds from himself alone. Hence it follows, that the nature of man is unfruitful and destitute of everything good; because no man has the nature of a vine, till he be implanted in him. But this is given to the elect alone by special grace. So then, the Father is the first Author of all blessings, who plants us with his hand; but the commencement of life is in Christ, since we begin to take root in him. When he calls himself the true vine the meaning is, I am truly the vine, and therefore men toil to no purpose in seeking strength anywhere else, for from none will useful fruit proceed but from the branches which shall be produced by me.

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