The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire BibleMatthew 7:16
Ye shall know them by their fruits…
By "fruits" are
meant, not so much their external works in life and conversation;
for a false prophet may so behave, as not to be discovered thereby.
So the Pharisees were outwardly righteous before men; and false
teachers among Christians may have the form of godliness, and keep
it up, though they are strangers to, and even deny the power of it:
but their doctrines are here meant, and the effects of them. When
doctrines are contrary to the perfections of God, repugnant to the
Scriptures of truth, tend to depreciate the person and offices,
blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, to lessen the glory
of God's grace, to exalt the creature, and to fill men's minds with
notions of the purity, self-sufficiency, and ability of human nature;
when they are calculated to feed the pride and vanity of men, to get
money, and gain applause, to serve their own interests, and gratify
men's lusts and passions, they may be easily discerned who they are,
and from whence they come. The Jews have a proverb pretty much like
this F21, (eydy hypjqm Nyuwb) , "a gourd is known by its branches". The
gloss upon it is,
``it is, as if it was said, from the time it buds forth, and
goes out of the branch, it is known whether it is good or not;''
i.e. the goodness of the gourd is known by the fruit its
branches bear. So a good preacher is known by the good doctrine he
brings, and a bad one, by his unsound doctrine. Christ is not
speaking of these false prophets, as men, or as private professors
of religion, but as prophets, or teachers. "Do men gather grapes of
thorns, or figs of thistles?" Grapes and figs were common fruit;
there was great plenty of them in Judea; we often read of the
"gathering" of them. It is a matter in dispute with the doctors F23,
``if a man intends (Mybne jqwlw Mynat jqll) , "to gather
figs, and he gathers grapes", black ones, and he gathers
white ones, white ones, and he gathers black ones, whether
he is guilty of a sin offering or not.''
One says he is, another says he is not. These words of Christ put me
in mind of another passage, which seems to speak of grapes of thorns
``he that marries his daughter to a scholar, it is like to
grapes of the vine, with grapes of the vine, a thing
beautiful and acceptable; but he that marries his daughter
to a plebeian, it is like to grapes of the vine, (hnoh)
(ybneb) , "with grapes of the thorn", a thing ugly, and
Though (ybne) , in the last sentence, must be taken for berries which
grow on some thorn bushes, and not what are properly grapes; for
grapes do not grow upon, and are not to be gathered from thorns, and
bramble bushes. The meaning of our Lord is, that from the false
doctrines of men comes no good fruit of faith, holiness, joy, peace,
and comfort. Their doctrines are like "thorns", which prick and
pierce, give pain and uneasiness; and, like "thistles", choke, and
are unprofitable, afford no solid food and nourishment; yea, their
words eat as do a canker, are contrary to vital religion and
powerful godliness. This sense I prefer; because, on the one hand,
it is possible for a false teacher to do works, which may be
externally good; though indeed no good works, properly speaking, can
be performed by an unregenerate man, because he has neither good
principles to act from, nor good ends in view: and, on the other
hand, a man who is destitute of the grace of God, and lives ill, may
yet have right notions of the Gospel, though he has no experimental
knowledge and relish of it; but where false doctrines are imbibed,
and propagated, no good fruit can follow upon it.
F21 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 48. 1.
F23 T. Bab. Ceritot, fol. 19. 1, 2. & 20. 1.
F24 T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 49. 1.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 7:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/geb/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=007&verse=016>. 1999.