« PreviousContinue »
less and indifferent under such an abundance of the means of grace, under such signal advantages as we enjoy above the rest of mankind. What can be done for us that God has not already done? What expression, what demonstration of the most affectionate regard can be exhibited, that is not contained in the bestowing of his own eternal Son, his unspeakable gift? He has not only given us all the advantages of being and reason he not only bestows upon us, day by day, all the blessings of providence he has not only provided a Saviour for us, and with him of fered to us all the blessings of his purchase, but has, in the depth of his mercy, extended his patience and long-suffering toward us, while we have continued to despise the means of grace, while we have thrown contempt upon the Saviour. He has again and again returned seeking fruit, and has as often spared, as often delayed the execution of his vengeance upon the careless, formal, lifeless sinner. But let us not presume upon his goodness; the next visit may be to pronounce the awful sentence, " Cut it down, why cumbereth it "the ground?" That this may never be our unhappy case, may God of his infinite mercy grant, for Christ's sake. Amen.
LUKE xiii. 6-9.
He spake also this parable: a certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, behold these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down,
ON THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE.
IT is undoubtedly the indispensible duty of all who profess to preach the gospel, to declare the whole counsel of God, without concealing or disguising any part of it: to "say unto the righteous, that it shall be well with them, for they shall "eat the fruit of their doings, and unto the wick❝ed, it shall be ill with them; for the reward of "their hands shall be given them;" and in this manner, as "faithful stewards over the house"hold of God, to distribute unto every one his
portion of meat in due season." It were most sincerely to be wished, that the hearts and lives of men were such as to render reflections upon human nature in general, and severe censures and reproofs of particular persons, altogether unnecessary that the human soul were so vigorous and healthy as to stand in no need of the physician's aid. But dangerous, desperate diseases necessarily require strong, and sometimes disagreeable, medicines; and that is very ill-judged lenity which leads the physician to consult rather the taste than the safety of his patient. The parable I have now read speaks nothing but terror to the great bulk of mankind; for, alas! how small a proportion even of professing christians do really bring forth fruit unto God: some contenting themselves with an empty lifeless profession; others with the bare name of christians; a great many openly disavowing all regard for religion, by living in direct contradiction to its precepts, committing every sort of iniquity with greediness, declaring their sin like Sodom, and hiding it "not;" and all, too little concerned to keep alive the genuine spirit and power of Christianity.
Some in this congregation will probably remember, that in discoursing formerly on this subject, in explication of the parable, we observed,
that by the owner of the vineyard was to be understood God himself, the great author and proprietor of the world, and all things therein; by the gardener, or dresser of the vineyard, is meant Jesus Christ, our gracious mediator and intercessor with the Father; and by the barren fig-tree, every hypocritical, careless, or wicked member of Christ's visible church. In the text we observed the following particulars: 1st. Man' sdegeneracy and worthlessness, represented by a barren tree cumbering the ground. 2. The goodness and forbearance of God toward sinners, in delaying the execution of his justice upon them, held forth under the notion of the owner of a vineyard's visiting year by year in expectation of fruit, a tree which persists in barrenness, and still suspending the destruction of it. 3. We see the justice and severity of God against the impenitent, in his at length coming to the awful resolution of utterly destroying the obstinately fruitless and unprofitable. And 4. The gracious intercession of our blessed Redeemer is figured by the gardener interceding with the owner in behalf of a favourite tree, of which, though hitherto unfruitful, he would fain, by proper culture, entertain good hopes. The first of these particulars we at that time fully considered; namely, our degene racy and worthlessness, which we observed, in ge
neral, arose from that universal corruption and depravity of our nature, which was the consequence of our fatal apostacy from God, whereby we became exposed to his wrath, and are wholly incapacitated to do what is acceptable in his sight, or in any respect to contribute to our own happiness: more particularly from the text we observed, that two characters seemed to be principally designed; by viewing a barren tree under two different aspects: 1st. As promising a crop, by exhibiting the previous signs of fruitfulness, emitting buds, leaves, and blossoms, which repres sents the character of the hypocrite, who " comes "before God as his people cometh," occupies a place in the religious assembly of christians, puts on every form and appearance of religion, while he is at heart an utter stranger to the life and power of it.-And 2d. If we consider a barren tree, as one wholly dried up and withered, without so much as the appearance of fruit, upon which the influence of the elements makes no sort of impression; then the character designed is that of the careless, indolent, lifeless hearers of the gospel, who, under all the means of grace, remain hard and impenitent, indifferent and unconcerned: against such is the dreadful sentence in the text denounced. Having thus, for the sake of assisting your memories, and in order that we