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blessing that such a man as Paul was on board that ship. He was the means of guiding and saving all that were with him. The faith of the Christian is often a great benefit to others.
First: By directing their thoughts to God. “I believe God.” Paul directed the attention of the godless men about him to God. He thus threw a ray of divine light upon their dark souls. Every Christian is fitted by his faith to direct men to God as the Creator, Ruler, Saviour, of mankind; to lead them to that divine source of hope and salvation he has found in the Gospel ; to "hold forth the word of life” to the lost and perishing.
Secondly : By enabling him to cheer the downcast. Paul could speak words of encouragement to the despairing men in the storm-beaten ship. “Sirs, be of good cheer.” They were rendered more calm and composed by these words of faith. Christian faith fits its possessor to pour the balm of consolation into the wounds of the troubled spirit, and direct the downcast to the Great source of safety and peace. It qualifies him to "" bind up broken hearts” and give relief to the afflicted and desponding.
Thirdly: By effecting their salvation. On one of his associates, in that hour of danger, the faith of Paul made a deep impression. The Centurion at least felt its power, and is it not probable that many besides experienced its influence ?
True Christian faith has a mighty effect on such as witness its exemplification. It makes them feel that the Christian has a better foundation to build on, both for time and for eternity, than they have ; and it is often the means of awakening their convictions, and leading them to believe and be saved.
Brethren, it is a great thing to possess an earnest Christian faith :-it is the general source of strength, courage, hope, and moral power. Seek above all things an increase of faith,
S. A. BROWNING.
SUBJECT :-The Barren Fig Tree; or, a Fruitless Life.
“ He also spoke this parable : A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon,” &c.—Luke xiii. 5–10.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sebenteenth.
This is a pictorial representation of three objects: the Jewish nation ; the great God ; and the merciful Redeemer of man. The first is represented by the barren fig tree; the second, by the owner of the vineyard in which it grew ; the third, by the vinedresser, who intercedes for its continuance, and resolves on special efforts for its improvement. We shall look upon the parable in a wider application, and seek to derive from it practical instructions for ourselves. The great idea I wish to bring out before you and impress upon your hearts is, that of a fruitless human life. Let us notice:
I. THE UNREASONABLE CHARACTER OF A FRUITLESS LIFE. There are three facts connected with this fig tree which justified the owner in expecting fruit. A good position, a cultivating agent, and a sufficiency of time. First : It had a good position. It was planted not in a barren desert, not in a wild wilderness, not on an unprotected common, but in a “ vineyard." The Jewish nation had a splendid position : “ Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt," &c. Psalm lxxx. 1-11. “He planted it with the choicest vines, and built a tower in the midst of it, also a vinepress thereon," &c. Isaiah v. 2. Palestine, the land in which they lived, was full of moral significance; the spirit of poetry and of God overhung its mountains and breathed through its valleys. . Secondly : It had a cultivating agent. “The dresser of his vineyard.” This vinedresser may represent the whole machinery of spiritual means ;—the temple that stood in Palestine for ages, with its gleaming Shekinah and suggestive ceremonies; the priests that offered sacrifices ; the prophets
that thundered their warnings; and the bards that sung of “the good things to come.” The tree was not left in a good soil without any attendants :-—it had every attention.
Thirdly : It had a sufficiency of time. “ Three years he came seeking fruit,” &c. It is said that the Jew gave up the tree as barren, if it did not bear fruit in three years ;-sufficient time therefore was allowed it. How long did God bear with the Jewish nation? He came to them year after year, century after century, until they filled up the measure of their iniquities, and their case became hopeless. He came to them in three ways: by Moses, their great lawgiver ; by the prophets; and by Christ. The unfruitfulness of the Jewish nation therefore was most unreasonable. God had a right to expect fruit from them. But how much more so with you Britons, seeing the good position you are placed in for fruitfulness! A land of light and liberty, of temples, ministers, and Bibles; a land filled with the stirring memories of millions of sainted souls. What cultivating agencies are brought to bear on you every day, and how long have you been allowed to continue on trial! How much more than three years! Ten-twenty-thirty-forty -fifty-sixty and seventy-years. God expects fruit from you;-fruit: not talk, not profession. But, fruit, the organic produce of a holy inward life. How unreasonable is your fruitless life!
II. THE THREATENED DOOM OF A FRUITLESS LIFE. it down, why cumbereth the ground ?” But why cut it down?
First: Because it occupies the position which others might occupy with greater advantage. Look at that tree in your garden; year after year it remains fruitless :--it occupies a position in which another tree might produce abundant fruit. So with a fruitless man.
Were other men in your position, how holy and useful they might be ;-you are in the way you are cumberers of the ground. Had your children some one else to guide them, your servants some one else to employ them, your minister some one else to preach to, what good might be accomplished! You are in the way.
Secondly: Because it appropriates blessing which might be better used by others. Not only does the barren tree occupy a position which a fruitful one might occupy with greater advantage, but it drinks up the nourishment from the soil which would go to support the fruit-bearing tree. How useful might the business you conduct be in other hands! What good the money you are expending might do were it in the hands of others! and the books that you are monopolising were they in the possession of others! You are an injury ;-you must be cut down.
Thirdly: Because it prevents the genial influences of Heaven falling on other life. See the barren tree in the garden ; its wide branches, covered perhaps with luxuriant foliage, catch the dew, and prevent it from falling on the plants below, and shade them from the quickening sun. It throws a chilling shadow over all beneath it;—it is so with you. Divine light falls on you but you do not reflect it; you spread a moral shadow over all within your reach. It is just therefore you should be cut down. You are an injury to the universe ; you are like
“ The noisome weeds that without profit suck
III. THE INTERPOSITION
“Lord let it alone this year also ; till I shall dig about it and dung it and if it bear fruit, well; and after that then thou shalt cut it down." Here is a picture of redeeming mercy.
First : Here is a picture of redeeming mercy interceding for its continuation. Mercy interceded through Abraham for Sodom; mercy interceded through Moses for the Israelites in the wilderness; mercy intercedes through the prayer of the Church for the wicked. But Christ is the great organ of interceding mercy ;—“He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Because of His intercession wicked men are allowed to live on this earth ; He wards off the blow of justice. “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are resolved, I bear up the pillars of it.”
Secondly: Here is a picture of redeeming mercy, resolving on special efforts for improvement. “I shall dig about it and dung it;"—put forth special efforts for its improvement. Mercy made special efforts for the Antediluvians by the preaching of Noah ; special efforts for Sodom and Gomorrah by the warning of angels ; special efforts for Jerusalem by the ministry of Christ and His apostles, before its final overthrow. And now, in England, there are special efforts made for the conversion of sinners.
Thirdly : Here is a picture of redeeming mercy, agreeing to yield it up to justice, in case of a failure. “If it bear fruit, well.” Well for it,-it shall continue to enjoy the blessings of nature; well for the owner,-he shall realize his expectations ; well for me,-it shall gratify my heart; well, for the universe, it shall be an instrument of good. “But if not, then thou shalt cut it down." Then let thy blow descend ; then remove it from the garden as a cumberer of the ground; then consign it to the flames. When the year is up, and no improvement has taken place, mercy bids a reluctant adieu, and leaves the fruitless life to justice.
How many of you are fruitless, so far as good works are concerned ! “What have you done?” &c. Let me urge you to consider your ways. Life is passing away. The end of your existence, and all the means and blessings therewith, is usefulness.
“Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,