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be saved?"-But as in the day of God's vengeance against "the cities of the plain," an intercessor was found successfully to plead to the salvation of righteous Lot: so now the righteous man, the faithful and obedient Christian, hath "an advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ," and he is an all-prevailing Intercessor. And there will be rescue and deliverance and a remembrance in favour of the godly, when this "earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up" by the fiery flood which shall then overwhelm the wicked. And then, when the throne shall be set, and the books shall be opened, and judgment shall be had upon all flesh; then, to the condemnation of the impenitent sinner, and to the everlasting joy of the obedient believer, it shall be seen and confessed, that "the Judge of all the earth doeth right."
61 John ii. 1.
72 Peter iii. 10.
THE UNFRUITFUL FIG TREE.
LUKE xiii. 6, 7.
"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 ?"
THE intent or purport which our Lord had in view, when he delivered this parable of the barren fig tree, cannot be easily mistaken; although, as the commonest observation on the ways of the world will certify to us, men in general sit down and make themselves very easy under the divine lesson here taught--and taught from
the mouth of Him, who would not "that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." The apostle Peter, as we may recollect, repeats the lesson concerning God's mercy and love towards us to be acquired from this parable of our Lord, when he counsels us to "account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation." It is indeed salvation unto all, who continue not slow to understand the lovingkindness of the Lord, but are happily alive to the patience and forbearance which the Almighty daily exercises towards the creatures of his bounty, and who further duly and gratefully value that precious gift of lengthened days, which God "giveth or denies severally to every man as he will."
But who, my brethren,-who that looks back with serious thought on his past life, however brief the space, who can call to mind, trying himself by the word of the Gospel, the things done and said
1 2 Peter iii. 15.
in the body, and will not have abundant reason to confess that he is a miracle of God's mercy and forbearance? Times without number hath he been in effect a traitor to his God, and a rebel against his authority. He hath been careless of the means of grace; he hath closed his eyes to the light of truth; he hath hardened himself against the pleadings of his conscience; he hath lived for present things only, reckless and regardless of the "one thing needful," and of the account which shall be demanded of him hereafter. Wherefore then hath he been spared? Wherefore hath the sinner and the rebel been reprieved from that judgment of condemnation which he hath so perseveringly, and obstinately, and daringly challenged to himself? Brethren, "it is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not." Nevertheless, however great, however long, however
2 Lament. iii. 22.
enduring as are the compassions and the tender pity of our heavenly Lord and Master; yet the parable, to the instructive purport of which we are the more immediately addressing ourselves as illustrating an important Gospel truth, solemnly bids us to understand the possibility of outstaying our day of grace, "when it shall be too late to knock, the door being shut, and too late to cry for mercy, when it is the time of justice."3
The sentence had gone forth against the unfruitful fig tree, the word of condemnation had been pronounced, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" and when the reprieve was sought for and obtained, there was an express reserve and limitation, as to the continuance of that mercy-" If it bear fruit, well and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down." So far then should escapes from danger, and providential deliverances-recoveries from sickness, and 3 Commination Service.