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Seeing then that we have neither righteousness nor strength of our own, the hope of these promises will naturally engage us, laying aside all confidence in ourselves, to seek to be "clothed "upon" with the perfect righteousness of the blessed Redeemer, and humbly to implore the Father of Mercies, that " Christ may of God be "made to us wisdom and righteousness, and "sanctification, and redemption;" at the same time, making it our constant and sincere endeavour to "walk even as he walked;" imitating that example which he has set us, and transcribing into our life and conversation, those perfections which we are capable of copying;-" exer
cising ourselves constantly in this, to maintain ❝ a conscience void of offence toward God, and "toward all men," that when we come to die, we may "have this for our rejoicing; the testimony "of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God; we have had our conversation "in the world," and seeing it is our Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom: "let us conti
nue stedfast, immovable, always abounding in "the work of the Lord; for as much as we know "that our labour shall not be in vain in the "Lord."
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
so, 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 never was, nor could be, the intention of the
all-wise Creator of the world to send any of his creatures into it, especially those endued with reason and understanding, merely to fill up places, for no higher end than to act the part of idle spectators, and to pass their existence in a state of listless, stupid inaction; much less to indulge at will their passions and appetites to the dishonour of God, the disgrace of human nature, the offence of society, and their own utter de
struction. It was never for such low and unworthy, such wicked and impious purposes, that man was made "wiser than the beasts of the "earth, and endued with more understanding "than the fowls of heaven;" but the command of the supreme Lord of Nature to all his intelligent creatures, and in a particular manner to those who enjoy the advantages of the gospel revelation, is that of the nobleman to his servants in the parable, "Occupy till I come: behold I "have bestowed upon you such and such gifts " and talents; be careful to improve them to the "best advantage, and do not either profusely "squander them away, nor suffer them to lie by neglected and unimproved:" and in the passage just now read, our Lord by a representation borrowed from ordinary life, gives his hearers a very striking view of the imminent danger they were in, if they continued to misimprove or neglect those means of grace and salvation, which through the goodness and long-suffering of God they were favoured with.
All I shall say in explication of the parable, as its meaning is abundantly obvious, is, that by the owner of the vineyard is to be understood God himself, the great author and proprietor of the universe and of all things therein: by the
gardener or dresser of the vineyard, is meant Jesus Christ, the gracious mediator betwixt God and man, and by the barren fig tree, every indolent, hypocritical, or wicked member of Christ's visible church. The text then, presents us with the following particulars :-First, with a view of our own natural degeneracy, worthlessness, and unprofitableness, under the image of a fig tree, cumbering or uselessly occupying the ground. Second, of the patience and forbearance of God toward sinners, in delaying the execution of his justice upon them, notwithstanding their continuing fruitlessness, under the notion of the owner of a vineyard's coming year by year in expectation of fruit from a tree which persists in barrenness, and as long suspending the destruction of it. Third, it gives us an awful representation of the justice and severity of God, toward impenitent sinners, by his coming at last to the resolution of cutting down, of utterly destroying the useless, unprofitable trunk, as being a mere occupier of space, a cumberer of the ground. And fourth, we have a most endearing representation of the gracious intercession of our blessed Redeemer, in the dresser of the vineyard's interceding with the master, in behalf of a favourite tree, of which, though for the present barren, he still would entertain good hopes of. In discoursing,
therefore, more at large from this subject, I shall, as God is pleased to enable me, consider each of these particulars in order, and then endeavour to lead to the improvement of the subject.
The first particular, which will occupy your time at present, is the view we have of our own natural degeneracy, worthlessness, and unprofitableness, under the image of a fig tree cumbering or uselessly occupying the ground. "I had planted thee," says God to his ancient people, by his prophet Jeremiah, " I had planted thee a "noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art "thou turned into a degenerate plant of a "strange vine unto me?"
When man came out of the hands of his Creator in all the dignity of spotless innocence, and enlarged understanding, and was placed in the midst of the delightful garden, the sovereign, the happy lord of this lower creation; while as yet sin was unknown, but nature and holiness were the same thing; while as yet the law of God was the study and delight of his rational creature; while reason and practice went hand in hand, and conscience smiled approbation on every action; while as yet no ignorance, error, or prejudice clouded the understanding, no perverseness