Summary: Fruit is what we give back to God for the gift of salvation. Salvation is what we accept from God, but fruit is what we achieve for God. Salvation is a gift from God, but fruit is a goal we reach for God.
Two young brothers, Nathaniel and John Chapman, entered the
Black Bear Tavern, the largest building in Pittsburgh back in 1788.
They were looking for a place to sleep in this little village on the
Western Frontier. All of the rooms were filled, so they had to sleep on
the floor in the corner of the bar. Little did the bar keeper realize
that one day one of these brothers, John, would become one of the
most famous characters West of the Allegheny Mountains. John had
been to Harvard, and had also been a missionary preaching the
doctrines of the Swedish mystic Swedenborg. He came to Pittsburgh
because it was the point from which people departed for settlements in
Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.
John and his brother went up the Allegheny River to visit an uncle.
When they found his cabin enemy they decided to settle there for
awhile. John noted that there was an absence of fruit trees in the area,
and he decided to do something about it. He found an neglected
orchard and set out hundreds of apple tree shoots. Clarence
Macartney in his book of historical studies called Right Here In
Pittsburgh says, "This was probably the first nursery in the West."
John became so concerned about orchards and the providing of fruit
for the people moving West that he made it his life work to plant apple
He said, "Fruit is next to religion. I use to be a Bible missionary
down in Virginia, but now I believe I'll be an apple missionary. He
chose a very fruitful profession, and he was a marvelous success at it.
He became known all over the country as Johnny Appleseed.
Everywhere he went he carried his bag of apple seed and he planted
them. He said, "I am going to sow the West with apple seeds, making
the wilderness to blossom with their beauty, and the people happy with
On horseback, in canoe, and on foot he roamed the wilds of
Western Pennsylvania, Southern New York, and Ohio. He kept a
cabin near Pittsburgh. He dressed with ragged, ill fitting, faded
garments. He went barefoot and had long black hair that fell over his
shoulders. He made friends wherever he went as he sowed his seeds
and preached from the Bible. When the Indian wars raged through
Ohio, he was the only white man who could go on roaming the woods
and not be killed, for the Indians also loved him. For 50 years he lived
a vagabond life risking every danger to sow his seeds. More than once
he was brought down by malaria. Robert Luccock in The Last Gospel
tells of how on one occasion he was found by a pioneer in an Ohio
River settlement dying with an intense fever. He did not know who he
was, but he called for a doctor. The doctor came and seeing him
clutching a bag of seed with the initials JC burned into the leather
said, "It's Jonathan Chapman that good Samaritan of Pittsburgh
come to settle among us. Praise God from who all blessing flow."
At the age of 79 Johnny Appleseed died at Fort Wayne, Indiana
where he is buried. Monuments have been created in his memory, and
many legends have surrounded his career. In the U. S. Senate,
General Sam Houston of Texas paid this eulogy to Johnny Appleseed:
"This old man was one of the most useful citizens of the world in his
humble way. He has made a greater contribution to our civilization
than we realize. He has left a place that can never be filled. Farewell,
dear old eccentric heart. You labor has been a labor of love..." We
are interested in this life, because his life of love and fruit illustrates
the ideal of the New Testament for the Christian. Our goal is not
apples, but our goal is fruit. As Peter indicates here, and as the whole
Bible makes clear, the purpose of all virtues, including love, is that
they might lead us to fruitful living.
Johnny Appleseed dressed like a bum, had his hair like a hippie,
had habits as strange as John the Baptist, and was just a very unusual
man, but he became a great success because fruit was his aim, and he
fulfilled that aim. Without fruit he would have been considered an
eccentric old fool and a mad man. Fruit made the difference, and
fruit will make the difference for all of us between failure and success.
Fruit is one of the key themes of the Bible. God is a God of fruit,
and all that is in harmony with His will is fruitful. Paradise was
paradise because of the fruitfulness of nature. To be put out of
paradise was to have to labor for food, for the earth was less fruitful