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renewed strength, be from causing us to become self-confident or careless for the future, that they ought, they are intended, to make us more wise, more wary, and more prudent, and that we thus admonished should henceforward walk more holily.
Behold," saith Jesus to the man cured at the pool of Bethesda, "thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." Every added day of our lives should in fact be received by us as an inestimable gift of the free grace and bounty of Him, who delayeth to strike, because he is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."5
And whom, my brethren,-whom are we to understand as portrayed in this parable, supplicating and petitioning for the unfruitful and unprofitable tree? Certainly none other than "the Lord our righteousness," Jesus, the Saviour of men, even he who now standeth, and now inter'John v. 14, 5 Joel ii. 13.
poseth between us and the just anger of an insulted God. Jesus of his love and his pity made atonement for our sins, and "now ever liveth to make intercession for us." This part of the parable, indeed, appears to be well calculated to impress us with a becoming sense of the value, the high and inestimable value, of that mediation and that successful intercession which Christ made and offered to the Father, when, in the unfathomable counsels of the Supreme will, the cross was elevated at Calvary bearing the spotless body of one, who suffered and died, the just for the unjust,” that "he might put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "In him," and for this cause, "the Father was well pleased," and delivered and confirmed to him "all power in heaven and in earth.”
Take we, however, earnest care that we seek to repay in some sort the blessing and 6 Heb. ix. 26.
the advantages of that intercession which the beloved Son "hath put forth for us." When "God shall be all in all," when the mediatorial kingdom of Christ shall be at an end; then shall the unbelieving, and the abominable, and the reprobate begiven over to just punishment, even by their now merciful Lord and Intercessor.
The dresser of the vineyard, entreating for yet another year of grace, said, "If it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." What madness, then, and folly in the extreme, is it to trifle away, as do so many, the space granted to man here on earth to prepare and to fit himself for a blessed eternity in heaven. "To-morrow," on this earth, shall not for ever return to us. We know this, we confess to it; we dare not deny it, and yet we live as though we thought, as though we were indubitably assured, "that our houses should continue for ever:" or at least that there would always be time
enough, and space granted to make our peace with God, before we " go hence,
and be no more seen.'
And, brethren, let us observe further the wording, the conditions, or the terms, on which a reprieve was conceded to the unproductive fig tree, "If it bear fruit, well." We may not then reckon on the efficacy of a deathbed repentance. God forbid that any mortal man, himself a sinner, should venture to set bounds to Heaven's high prerogative of mercy, or limit the reach of that Almighty arm, again and again stretched out to save. Even at the eleventh hour it is not for a fellow-worm to say, it is too late! But it is in itself a sin to presume thereon. And were we to advocate without reserve the entire security of a deathbed repentance, it would be tempting men to do that which St. Paul states only to put down most forcibly, as being highly sinful, namely, "to continue in sin that grace
For to what indeed doth the Gospel throughout exhort? In what did its preaching commence? And where shall we find, in any one page of that hallowed gift of God to man, the slightest inference that there exists not the positive necessity of "adding to our faith virtue," of continually "going on unto perfection"? The bold and impassioned preacher of repentance, John the Baptist, when he addressed himself to the congregated throng on the banks of Jordan, distinctly and earnestly called upon the people to "bring forth fruits meet for repentance." And the words of the Saviour himself are to the same effect, and ought ever to be fresh in our recollection: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he which doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." 8
We venture then to speak of this, the latter part of the parable, as a wholesome
7 Rom. vi. 1.
8 Matt. vii. 21.